Today is the second in our Soul Feast series and because we are dovetailing (last Sunday, today and next Sunday) with our three church goals, we have jumped to the ‘Hospitality’ chapter to tie in with our second goal: Led by the Spirit, we will build inclusive, caring community.
This week as I’ve reflected on that goal and read some of the timeline contributions people have already started sending in (thankyou!), I was reminded of the story I told last year about Nadia Bolz-Weber’s church, the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado; and how they ask new members, “What drew you to HFASS?” and the answers; “the singing, the community, the lack of loud praise bands, the laughter, the fact that people can be themselves, that it’s a place where difficult truths can be spoken and everyone is welcome, and where we pray for each other….”
And how, after everyone’s spoken, Nadia says what I’d say, that it is wonderful to hear all these lovely things about our church and that I, too, love being part of a community that gifts its members with freedom as we, together, follow Jesus.
But at this point Pastor Nadia continues. She says, “You also need to know that, sooner or later, this community will disappoint you. You will be let down. Someone will hurt your feelings. And you need to decide what you will do when that happens. Because if you choose to leave when the church doesn’t meet your expectations, you will miss out on seeing how the grace of God comes in and fill the holes left by this community’s failure, and that it is just too beautiful and real to miss.” So, welcome to church! We will disappoint you!
We need to commit ourselves to building an inclusive, caring community knowing that community will disappoint us. It will not be made up of people we agree with all the time, or who meet our needs and do things the way we’d like them to all the time, or who we even like – all the time!
In his short, but beautiful, book on Christian community, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer also writes that community will disappoint us. But this “great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves,” is an important part of how God leads us from the wish dreams, the lofty ideas of being an ideal community to experiencing genuine Christian community; experiencing, as Pastor Nadia writes, “the grace of God coming in and filling the holes…”
We don’t come together because we look the same or act the same, or think the same or worship the same, but, “We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.” Therefore, he writes, “the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together – the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.”
Genuine inclusive, caring community is the community of Jesus.