Saturday, April 16, 2016

Easter 21 Comfort

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in the book Life Together, written in the days leading up to World War II, asserted that Christian community, the ability to live and worship with other Christians, was a privilege, not a given. He taught that a Christian is experiencing a special grace to be able to gather with other Christians, noting that not all Christians are able to do so.

As I've been reflecting upon community this past week in my "discipline of celebration," I realized that I'm not always grateful for the privilege I have to gather regularly with other Christians, even Christians who hold similar values as I hold. To resort to wordplay, I admit I'm often less than grateful as the community will often grate on my nerves.

But Bonhoeffer speaks to that, too. That we shouldn't let our ideal of a Christian community, our fantasy about it, lead us away from the community that God has given us. I take this with some  caution, as I would not tell a lesbian to stay in a church that preached violence against her, or a trans man to stay in a hostile environment or a person of color to stay where church members were KKK.

But that's not my case. I belong to a congregation that welcomes me as a gay man, I worship with a beautiful mix of LGBT and straight families, and if I would like to see a bit more melanin in the pews, we're still the most racially diverse congregation I've ever been a member of. The ways they may grate on my nerves are really superficial considering the ways these things can go terribly wrong.

Also, I'm in a major metropolitan area with options. I belong to more than one LGBT Christian Facebook group and the most common lament is from people in smaller towns or rural areas, where they may not feel safe being known as gay much less find a church where they are welcomed into full membership.

And so, in this modern age, I'm thankful for the community I've found, and I'm even thankful for the cyber-community I see the more isolated Christians have found online. It's a comfort to have such community, wherever you may find it. In Bonhoeffer's time, letters may have been the only hope for that comfort for an isolated person (as he was in prison, even though he still found people to hold services with there). Today, the internet provides other avenues.

For me and my circumstances, I am thankful and celebrate the community I am able to have, across congregations and through the internet, but particularly for the physical, weekly gathering of the saints in my particular congregation. For people in other circumstances, I offer words of encouragement that it is possible. It won't be perfect or live up to your ideals, but Christian community is possible.

Let us pray and work for this true, real, but not ideal community to rise with our Risen Lord into a Body that receives each of us and our gifts.

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