Community

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[For Mary Lynne]

  • A Christian community shares common goals and communicates (with each other, and with God) through communion.

Community is an old word, actually. According to Merriam-Webster, it has been in use since the fourteenth century, and its root word, common, has been around even longer–since the thirteenth century. All of these words stem from the Latin communis, or “ordinary,” which is one if its contemporary definitions. Other synonyms might be shared, similar, or related.

Today, community is a buzz word some might define in a social context, as in “belonging to a group,” or in a geographical sense, as in “an area of a town or neighborhood.” While these definitions are valid, they really only hint at what community is and what it was intended to be.

Genesis 35

After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.

11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.

Looking at community in this context, we see that it is a creation resulting from a centuries-old covenant between God and Abraham. God chose Abraham to be the father of a new nation of people who would no longer worship a multitude of fickle gods. This nation, named after Jacob/Israel, Abraham’s grandson, would be unique. They would have a direct relationship with the One God, later revealed to Moses as “I AM.” This nation would see God’s manifestations in clouds of fire; they would hear His voice in the thunder; they would see His writing on stone tablets; they would learn His laws, which at the time, were different from any human law.

This nation would also struggle, rebel, and disobey every law placed before them. They would, as they had years before, lose the intimate relationship they had with God, yet, He would always return to them. God eventually came back to them in the most profound way possible—by becoming one of them. By becoming one of us. By becoming “common” and “ordinary.”  Perhaps this is why the word communion seems directly related to community and common. After the Last Supper, every-day sustenance was transformed into a holy ritual—a reminder of the fulfillment of that covenant made long ago between God and His chosen, wandering people.

No matter how far we roam from God, no matter how our sins transport us away into the Valley of Sheol, He will always be there pursuing us, even unto death. When we share communion, we communicate our thanks to God for promises kept. We communicate with each other by acknowledging openly how far from perfection we truly are, and by recognizing the unfathomable value of every person eating that bread and drinking that cup.

 

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