The world seems to have fallen off of its axis. Tensions between neighbors have risen to extreme degrees and the divisions amongst us are impossible to ignore. We have stopped learning the names of those who live next door, stopped engaging in fellowship with others, and stopped listening to those around us. This isn’t a result of being bad people, but of being burned out.
Our society is inundated with information and demands 24 hours a day. We have very little time for our families, let alone ourselves. We are pulled in so many directions that by the time we get home our biggest desire is to “check out.” Social media allows us the wonderful opportunity to connect with a network of family and friends. Unfortunately, it also provides the illusion that we are in community and in relationship with others when in fact, we are more isolated than ever. God is calling us anew into a relationship with our neighbors and to know them by name.
On the first and third Monday’s of the month, St. Paul’s hosts a community dinner that is open to anyone. Upon entering the doors, our greeters offer them a name tag. When I first attended a community dinner I was struck by the profound beauty these name tags represent. To know someone and call them by name, is to acknowledge that persons’ humanity. It’s the first step to really seeing a person. When we recognize our neighbors and their humanity, it is hard to disregard their value and worth. The United Methodist Church has embarked upon a campaign called See All the People. This campaign is challenging churches to get out in our communities and meet our neighbors. This is a call to share our names and to hear theirs. It’s a call to know who our neighbors are so that we are less likely to fear the unknown or hate the stranger.
Blessed community begins and ends in worship. Community by definition tells us that we are to be more than isolated. Upon seeing Adam was alone, God knew it wasn’t good and provided a companion for him. (Genesis 2:18). Jesus didn’t call one disciple, but twelve, and had an even greater following. When the Church was formed in the book of Acts, there were many tongues and many neighbors. Where community starts for us at St. Paul’s is in a rooted relationship with God. In worship we come to praise God together, to confess our sins and mutually acknowledge our need for grace and forgiveness, to offer ourselves as living offerings, to pray with each other, and to share in our faith. We do not engage in any of this alone. From togetherness in worship, we go out into the world as disciples to share the power of God’s unconditional love with others and invite them into sacred community with us. When we are living faithfully into what God has called us to, we are not tearing down one another, but building each other up and inviting new people to join the party.
When we see each other, when we know each other, when we commune with each other and acknowledge sacred worth, we are practicing holy relationships. It is within holy relationships that we come to understand love. Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote, “that love is the most durable power in the world. This creative force, so beautifully exemplified in the life of Christ, is the most potent instrument available in mankind’s quest for peace and security.” When we see our world, for the brokenness and the beauty it is, and love anyway, we become the blessed community of peace. Where, O God, are you calling us to See All the People today?
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Tiffany A. Nagel Monroe
August 18th, 2017