The Importance of Community

“When external law drugs me into such insensitivity that I can no longer hear the anguished cry of my brother; when American Christians can grow fat and selfish in their superabundance–while a few streets away their white, black, and Chicano brothers are submerged in grinding poverty and depersonalizing squalor–and still salve their consciences with the Sunday masses they have attended; when Americans can spend thirty billion dollars on their own vacations and parcel out measly millions in antipoverty bills, then Karl Marx was right–religion is the opium of the people.”~~Brennan Manning

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Good morning. It is Wednesday, October 15, 2014. Hump day.

Today is Hagfish Day. I don’t make these up, I promise you.

I had a great day yesterday. I don’t recall getting even slightly annoyed at anything all day yesterday, even when I opened boxes that were unreceivable for whatever reason. I felt a strange, but beautiful peace throughout the day. Perhaps my efforts of trying to recognize God’s presence all through the day are paying off? We’ll see how today goes.

Christi says she is feeling a bit better this morning. There is still some dizziness, but not as bad. She has a bad headache, though.

Huddle meeting last night was interesting, but it looks like Christi and I won’t be leading a Huddle, at least this time around. Not sure what we will be doing, just yet.

The Kansas City Royals are one win away from being American League Champions. They lead the ALCS 3-0. The Giants lead the NLCS 2-1 over the Cardinals. If KC wins the ALCS, we will either have an all Missouri World Series or an all wild card World Series. I’m pretty sure neither one has ever happened.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard,
who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip.

Psalm 66:8-9
. . . hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!
Psalm 70:5
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.

Psalm 71:5-6
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalm 46:10
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.
You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:1-8, 12

He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:3
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
Psalm 25:5
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!
Psalm 143:10

Today’s Gospel Reading

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
Matthew 10:5-15

Immediately after choosing his disciples, Jesus sends them out, but only to “the lost sheep of . . . Israel.” He commands them to take no money for their “services,” but to stay in house that is “worthy” as long as they are in the village. There is a similar passage in Luke, but it involves sending out seventy-two disciples. This is an astounding model for discipleship and evangelism. I wonder what would happen if we tried it today?

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Where Is My Brother?”

As the church moved toward a more legalistic morality, it lost the sense of community, “that the eucharistic celebration is the assembly of God’s holy and worshiping family gathered around their Elder Brother who leads them to the Father in loving submission.” There seems to have developed more of a “telephone booth affair, a private communication between God and me that has no reference to my brother.”

“I go to mass while the world goes to hell.”

“When external law drugs me into such insensitivity that I can no longer hear the anguished cry of my brother; when American Christians can grow fat and selfish in their superabundance–while a few streets away their white, black, and Chicano brothers are submerged in grinding poverty and depersonalizing squalor–and still salve their consciences with the Sunday masses they have attended; when Americans can spend thirty billion dollars on their own vacations and parcel out measly millions in antipoverty bills, then Karl Marx was right–religion is the opium of the people.”

These are very harsh words. But Brennan has some good points in there, much to our shame. The current sermon series at our church is called “Treasure: Finding the Gospel in Our Finances.” One of the over-riding themes in the entire series is the fact that if we make $10,000 a year, well below the poverty level in the U.S., we have more money than 85% of the rest of the world. One of the biblical reasons that we have jobs is so we can have money to give away. But we are a nation of hoarders, scratching and saving for what? So we can retire? Try finding that in the Bible! What do we do about this? I’m still working that out in my own life. We have to fix some mistakes that we’ve made and adjust the way we’ve been thinking about money. Then we’ll see where God takes us from there.

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
James 2:8-9

Father, there has been a large part of my adult life in which I have been unconcerned about my “brother.” Nevertheless, in recent years, you have been teaching me much about love and responsibility in that area. I pray that you continue teaching me, and that I will fully “get it,” at some point. So much of my “Christian” life has been about me, how I can get closer to you, how I can deepen my devotion to you, how I can do this and that. These are not bad things, but the emphasis needs to (and has, to some degree) shift to more of a “we” and “us” understanding. For one thing, it’s not about me. It has never been about me, and American Christianity has made a huge mistake by thinking that way. Our churches need to regain the emphasis on community and what it means to be the body of Christ. I cannot be the body of Christ by myself. I am only a small piece of the body, and I need the rest of it to survive. I thank you for the church we are part of, and the emphasis on community that our pastor has driven into us. Yet we still fail to fully comprehend it. We still live our private lives, much to the exclusion of the others in our church. It’s a long, hard road to travel, because we have years of misunderstanding to overcome. I pray that you help us learn it, Lord, as we move forward. Help us understand the importance of discipleship and community. Help us love our brothers and sisters as you love us.

I pray for this day, that we will have safe travel to work and back home. Help me stay focused during my prayer time this morning. I pray for Christi to have a good work day, and that she will continue to feel better. Or that she will get to a doctor if she doesn’t feel better. Please show your great love to Stephanie today, and give her wisdom and understanding.

Your grace is sufficient. Let us believe this, no matter what.

Tough words today, but designed for thinking more than guilt. Let us ponder who our brother is and what our responsibility is as Christians. May we reestablish the importance of community as the body of Christ.

Grace and peace, friends.

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