Life Community

Friday 14 December 2007

"We are saddled and bridled today with a religion that is not sure if it wants to become church. Its adherents' expectations are very set. It is a comfortable and very materialistic religion, which tests its people's commitment on the level of doctrine but is afraid to test that commitment on issues of lifestyle or mature conscience.

"We give out bits of advice on marriage and family life, while the very structure of family crumbles all around us. Could it be that our vocation is not to teach about family, but to ourselves become family and to submit to its disciplines? If the world no longer knows how to struggle for unity and maintain commitments at the cost of pain, could it be because the church, the sign of salvation, has not traveled the narrow road first? In a commodity world we have become a commodity church. We have allowed the gospel to become something we buy and sell to others, something we use for power and good feeling. We have done to God what we do quite comfortably to one another - we use him!

"... We have become convinced in our nine years of community building at New Jerusalem that you can only build on life. All else is sand. You cannot build on fear, guilt, coercion, or even idealism. You cannot build on gospel passages, church commandments, or papal mandates, unless they are finally putting you in touch with life.

"You cannot build on death. Unforgiveness, repressed hurts, denied feelings, unconscious anger will all eventually show themselves as unfit foundations for community. They might appear to be energy in the short run, but they will in time show themselves to be negative energy, incapable of real life. "Wisdom builds herself a house" (Proverbs 9:1). And wisdom knows that you can only build on the foundation of life."

Richard Rohr, Near Occasions of Grace

I have been out here backside of the desert for many years now. I'm actually kinda comfortable here. Thing is, I always kinda knew that this wouldn't always look exactly like this, with very little on-the-ground Christian community. I had the feeling when I went into this time that God would be "calling me back in" after a certain period of time.

Well, these days I don't feel like I can be "called back into" something which I am a part of by virtue of breathing in and breathing out. I do, however, believe that this Christian thing is by nature a community thing. I feel very resistant to that idea on some levels. But my ideas on what constitutes community have changed, lengthened, during this desert experience and I feel small inklings of hope. Part of this desert dwelling has involved learning to hear God's voice above the clamour of groupthink (something which every group of people has a propensity towards), knowing God for myself, learning to follow him even if those around me don't often understand (and they don't - and neither should they). This desert dwelling has sent down deep roots. It's been an amazing, painful experience.

But I am getting occasional breezes of thinking that maybe the time will draw near when entering back into some form of community will be right before my eyes. And part of me is terrified at the prospect. It's difficult to feel positive about something that has only in general been a dead, fake, negative, shadow experience of the life that my spirit thirsts for

Of course, sharing in that life doesn't mean at all that it won't be messy, that it won't be filled with fucked-up people. Actually, the kind of community I'm only willing to put myself into these days is one which is under no illusions about how fucked-up it is. Anything else is anathema. And community, for me, doesn't necessarily mean a great giant group of people. Two or three gathered has always been my community of choice.

I want a velveteen rabbit kind of community. One that knows it's pockmarked and has worn bits on its ears. A vulnerable community that I can be vulnerable in.

Oh, the terror.

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