One of the first things Jesus does as he began his mission was to create a community. He called a community into being. The core of this community was made up of 12 disciples. The scriptural Gospels often refer to them as The Twelve. But there were many more who were a part of this community.
The Christian theological understanding of God as being one, that is to say monotheism, yet experienced in three distinct entities, that is to say trinitarianism, is difficult to explain even for Christians. In Christian infancy the concept of a triune God that was actually one was ridiculed by outsiders.
But I think the idea of God as being one yet three reveals the true nature of God as communal. To experience God is to experience community.
The reason I bring this up is I believe the idea of community is under assault today. It has been for some time. In its place is a kind of tribalism that pits one tribe against all others that has led to demonization of others, isolation, polarization.
And a lot of shouting hurtful, damaging things at one another.
Some time ago, I read about a medical scientist who developed a way of listening to human cells. It turns out healthy cells make a noise that sounds much like music. Diseased cells on the other hand make a noise that sounds much like screaming.
It’s time to do less screaming at each other and do more singing together.
Ironically a primary reason we are experiencing the disintegration of community is the demand for individual liberty. Ironically because there cannot be individual liberty absent of institutions that protect and encourage it. Government, Education, Religion, Justice, the family. These institutions have been attacked so continually that they are in the process of losing relevance.
In their place we find a widening gap between those who are safe no matter what happens, and those who are at risk. Those who are safe believe they do not need institutions. They believe they are above them.
As Jesus began his mission, the human condition was very much like what we are experiencing today. Two percent to 3 percent of the population was safe. The rest were at risk. He confronted this by showing people how to become a community.
The Twelve were a pretty diverse group. A parallel today would be to say they were made up of Republicans and Democrats. Some were well off, and others were blue collar workers; some were educated, and others weren’t. They didn’t agree on most things. One even turned out to be a traitor. They all abandoned Jesus at one point.
But in the end, they came to understand the meaning of community. One body. Many parts. Working together for the good of all concerned. Those who had much never had too much. Those who had little never had too little.
I cannot say I am filled with optimism when I think about what is happening in our world right now. The voices of the safe deliver a message that sounds great even to many who are at risk. But it is a message, when looked at critically, that does not create community.
Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, I am hopeful. Hope is different from optimism. Hope is what allows us to dream big dreams, to take on big challenges, to live in community together when none of those things make sense in light of our reality. Hope is a choice. When all is said and done there are three things that remain. Faith. And Hope. And Love. These are at the heart of community.
And in the end, they win.
The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Centro.