4.30.2009

2nd Sunday in Easter, Year B

We are a little out of sync here - somehow this didn't get published when it was written. Hang with us - May 3 is actually the 4th Sunday of Easter, and it's posted just below this one!

Acts 4.32-35
Psalm 133
1 John 1.1-2.2
John 20.19-31

So there is something about being a part of a community.

Both of us have experienced what it is like to be involved in, and embraced by, community. And both of us have experienced being separated and excluded from community.

From our experience, the former is better.

We all know that it is necessary for our body to have certain things to stay alive, and it is often surmised that companionship is one of them. One time we had a survivalist friend of ours tell us about the Rule of Threes: (on average) a human can survive only 3 minutes without air before serious damage to the brain; can only survive 3 days without water before serious damage to the body; can only survive 3 weeks without food before serious damage is done to the body; and the average human can only survive 4 months without companionship before serious psychological / emotional damage is done.

Communities help us survive, they help us learn, they help us grow up, they help us to know and understand who we are, and they help us know and understand who God is. This week the lectionary readings all touch on some different aspects of what it means to be, and why it is important to be, a part of a community.

In the reading from Acts we see a community rule played out that is reminiscent of what was found in all of the laws of the Hebrew scriptures. In places like Leviticus we find laws that made allowance for the poor and widows so they could continue to live and survive. And in the first Christian Community we see these ideas put in to action in a fairly overt way. An important thing to note here is that even in this community that we sometimes want to romanticize as ideal and completely equal, there are still authorities and Deciderers. The apostles told the stories of Jesus and it was the apostles to whom the proceeds were brought and it was the apostles who distributed to any who had need.

In Psalm 133 we hear the psalmist singing the praises of how wonderful it is to live in community. It brings up memories of other references in the Hebrew bible such as in Ecclesiastes 4.12--If one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

The first letter of John is so named because it resonates as text written by someone who knew the author of the Gospel of John well. Some scholars believe that it is a text written by the community from which the Gospel of John originated, perhaps later in that community's history. Like Paul's epistles, it seems addressed at a community facing some disagreement, tension or conflict. The passage for this week assures the reader/hearer that this community has witnessed the risen Christ (at the very least, witnessed the tradition handed down by those who did witness the risen Christ) and as such a community, has much to offer/teach. Sin is a bad thing, and needs to be avoided. The author asserts that Christ died for sin, and so the needs to do its best to avoid sin so that this death is not in vein. At the time this text was written, there was probably quite a stir going on about the authenticity of the resurrection story. And the early church was beginning to grapple with the question of whether or not it mattered that Christ was resurrected in a physical way. This community believes that it matters, and that it continues to inform how they choose to live and to what they hold one another accountable.

And then in the gospel named John we have an often read story where the disciple named Thomas is looked upon and labeled as a Doubter. But when we look at this story from the lens of community it takes on a slightly different color. See, all of the other followers had the chance to see Jesus the first time While They Were Together In Community and Thomas was out running some sort of errand. In Community the others had a chance to confirm what they saw and process their disbelief in real time and with one another. And Thomas was (at that moment) not a part of the community. He did not have the opportunity to learn with the others and receive the support of the others....and no matter how much they might have told him, he was still catching up. We imagine all of us have some story that is similar to this.....

Communities emerge and they develop their own cellular structure. They find their own Boundaries, raise their own Leaders, identify their own Call, and Hold their Members Accountable. And they shape individuals and are shaped by individuals.

-How many ways did Jesus' community respond to his resurrection?
-How has community shaped your response to a surprising shared crisis?
-What do you gain from your community? What do you give to your community?


Let us break bread together on our knees, let us break bread together on our knees. When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.

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