Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Estrangement in community

An interesting thought by Henri Nouwen as recorded on p. 125 of the book 'The Only Necessary Thing":
The Christian community is... a community which not only creates a sense of belonging but also a sense of estrangement. In the Christian community we say to each other, 'We are together, but we cannot fulfill each other... we help each other, but we also have to remind each other that our destiny is beyond our togetherness.'

Wow. Yeah. I always hear people complain about how lame Christian "community" is. You know, that you can find better community at a bar, or a social club. I think that's debatable anyway, but I think part of the problem comes when we try to make the 'community' the ultimate reality, and what we have here is not yet it. He goes on...
The support of the Christian community is a support in common expectation. That requires a constant criticism of anyone who makes the community into a safe shelter or a cozy clique, and a constant encouragement to look forward to what is to come.

The basis of the Christian community is not the family tie, or social or economic equality, or shared oppression or complaint, or mutual attraction... but the divine call. The Christian community is not the result of human efforts. God has made us into chosen people by calling us out of "Egypt" to the "New Land," out of the desert to fertile ground, out of slavery to freedom, out of our sin to salvation, out of captivity to liberation. All these words and images give expression to the fact that the initiative belongs to God and that God is the source of our new life together. By our common call to the New Jerusalem, we recognize each other on the road as brothers and sisters. Therefore, as the people of God, we are called ekklesia (from the Greek kaleo, call; and ek, out), the community called out of the old world into the new.

Hmm. For a long time I thought creating community was my job. No wonder it left me feeling so discouraged and useless. Maybe instead of being the goal, community is simply what happens as we try to help one another find our way in becoming like Christ.

Peace out; and in.