In our sermon two Sundays ago, we re-encountered John’s telling of the feeding of the five thousand through the wisdom of the poet-farmer, Wendell Berry: What we need is here.
You might say this is Berry’s manifesto of sorts, that creation, communities, and even we ourselves, already have an abundance of resources that largely remain untapped. The miracle of sharing, we said, is how the abundance of creation is revealed, and a community is nothing more than a group of people committed to the practice of sharing.
Beginning this morning and continuing through the next several weeks, we’ll pick up this theme of community, paying close attention to specific practices that make for rich, deep—abundant—communal life.
To help guide us along the way, I’ll draw from a book I’m reading for the Convocation of Christian Leaders program I mentioned some months ago called, Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us, by Christine D. Pohl. Pohl notes that communal life is more than simply living in proximity to others. Community is intentional, and is cultivated through sharing in specific practices. Practices that are often small but when taken as a whole and over the long haul are revealed to be powerful, generative. She writes,
“A framework that focuses on practices allows us to see issues in congregational and community life from a different angle and helps us to get at the moral and theological commitments that structure our relationships.”
In other words, what we do together reveals what we believe together.
While there are of course many practices that define and shape communal life, she offers four that we will pay special attention to: truth-telling, promise making and keeping, gratitude, and hospitality.
This Sunday we turn out attention to truth-telling, which we will approach more broadly as “truthful living.” Living truthfully is about more than avoiding telling lies. It involves a host of postures toward life and relationships: reliability, faithfulness, forbearance, mutuality, and patience, to name a few. It’s life centered on the Spirit of Truth we see revealed in the person of Jesus and confess is still moving among us in our life together today. Truth depends on community. It is not something we can fully discern and commit ourselves to alone. We need the support of others to guide us, encourage us, and even occasionally admonish us along the way.
In our fragmented, cynical world, there is perhaps nothing more counter-cultural in the world today than people committed to living in community, sharing what they have, focusing their lives and their energies on the common good. It doesn’t come natural, and in fact takes practice. Over these next several weeks we’ll explore some ways we might continue to hone our practice here together as the First Baptist Church of Christ.