This Sunday we continue our exploration of Community with the last of four questions: what, why, who, how.
The conclusion of our series draws us to the logical conclusion of where we’ve been headed these past several weeks. We’ve looked at an example of community in the Holy Trinity, we’ve asked what it is, why it’s important, and who is included. And now we close with how we draw together in community.
And here’s the rub. I don’t believe there’s a simple answer to how we do such a thing. Communities are complex, they are living and breathing, they are ever-changing. And part of what makes communities beautiful is also what makes them complex.
The thing about communities is that we all bring our own presence, our own spirit, our own voice, our own energy, our own perspective, our own baggage, our own humanity. And when everyone brings all of this and more, we get overwhelmed at the differences and challenges; we fear incompatibilities; and in doing so we can lose sight of the possibilities of community.
But if we are the body of Christ, we must recognize that we are not whole until we all participate. We all have to bring all of our everything, because when we do we include all of our tools and graces and possibilities and our selves.
1 Samuel 17:32-49 (CEB)
32“Don’t let anyone lose courage because of this Philistine!” David told Saul. “I, your servant, will go out and fight him!”
33“You can’t go out and fight this Philistine,” Saul answered David. “You are still a boy. But he’s been a warrior since he was a boy!”
34“Your servant has kept his father’s sheep,” David replied to Saul, “and if ever a lion or a bear came and carried off one of the flock, 35I would go after it, strike it, and rescue the animal from its mouth. If it turned on me, I would grab it at its jaw, strike it, and kill it. 36Your servant has fought both lions and bears. This uncircumcised Philistine will be just like one of them because he has insulted the army of the living God.
37“The Lord,” David added, “who rescued me from the power of both lions and bears, will rescue me from the power of this Philistine.”
“Go!” Saul replied to David. “And may the Lord be with you!”
38Then Saul dressed David in his own gear, putting a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39David strapped his sword on over the armor, but he couldn’t walk around well because he’d never tried it before. “I can’t walk in this,” David told Saul, “because I’ve never tried it before.” So he took them off. 40He then grabbed his staff and chose five smooth stones from the streambed. He put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s bag and with sling in hand went out to the Philistine.
41The Philistine got closer and closer to David, and his shield-bearer was in front of him. 42When the Philistine looked David over, he sneered at David because he was just a boy; reddish brown and good-looking.
43The Philistine asked David, “Am I some sort of dog that you come at me with sticks?” And he cursed David by his gods. 44“Come here,” he said to David, “and I’ll feed your flesh to the wild birds and the wild animals!”
45But David told the Philistine, “You are coming against me with sword, spear, and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of heavenly forces, the God of Israel’s army, the one you’ve insulted. 46Today the Lord will hand you over to me. I will strike you down and cut off your head! Today I will feed your dead body and the dead bodies of the entire Philistine camp to the wild birds and the wild animals. Then the whole world will know that there is a God on Israel’s side. 47And all those gathered here will know that the Lord doesn’t save by means of sword and spear. The Lord owns this war, and he will hand all of you over to us.”
48The Philistine got up and moved closer to attack David, and David ran quickly to the front line to face him. 49David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone. He slung it, and it hit the Philistine on his forehead. The stone penetrated his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.
Consider these questions:
- What are ways we shield (or armor) ourselves from when it comes to gathering in community?
- What are the tools and gifts that we bring?
- How can we move past the former to get to the latter?
Post-Sermon Update on 6/26
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s message included a number of references to the sermon from our recent Annual Conference by Bishop Gregory Palmer from the West Ohio Conference of the UMC. Minutes, videos, and photos of the Conference can be found here.
In considering how we can build community, we noted that there are a diversity of tools available to us and that part of our roll as people of faith is to seek out these tools and to discern which tools will be most effective in following God’s call. And it is helpful to do these things with guidance, which is one of the ways our clergy and faith leaders can help us to be faithful disciples.
But we must be careful not to rely on our clergy and faith leaders to step into our own duties as people of faith. As I phrased – pointedly to be sure – during Sunday’s sermon, “You can’t pay me to be a Christian for you.” We must assume the vocation of being full time Christians.
The truth for most of us is that we have not been fully committed disciples of Jesus Christ. We have allowed others to take on the work that God calls the world to do. I believe this is unsustainable, and I believe that this is contrary to God’s desire for creation.
Consider these questions:
- In what ways have you allowed/asked people to be Christians for you?
- How will you commit to a full time vocation of being Christian?
- What specific thing will you do this week to live out God’s specific call in your life?