After Pentecost, those who joined the Disciples, now Apostles, joined together into a community. Since most of these people lived in the vicinity of Jerusalem, were they not already in the same community? We think of Warner Robins as our community. We think of our neighborhood or subdivision as a community. Where we work is a community, as is where we go to school. Yet this community is different.
The Christian community sold everything they had and lived in common, sharing resources as they were needed. They ate together at least twice a day even if they did not live in the same home. They looked after each other and supported each other. They were a Community!
I spent 15 years either in school and/or serving churches in Kentucky. While I was there, I heard of the farmer, poet, and author Wendell Berry. During one of the trips this year to Lexington to help while my mother-in-law was hospitalized, I visited a local bookstore. I know how strange it must sound that I would enter a bookstore. (I only bought four books and two of them are gifts.) I purchased two books by Wendell Berry and this week I finished The Hidden Wound. I want to recommend this book to everyone. It is only 137 pages long, but it is powerful.
Berry wrote this book while teaching in California in 1968-69. This was a time of great turmoil after the deaths of Dr. King and Malcolm X and the reactions to the passage of the Civil Rights legislation. It deals with the cost of prejudice on both sides. Berry draws on his experience as the grandson of slave owners and the common prejudices under which he was raised. He knew two African Americans who lived and worked on his Grandfather’s farm. From his own memories he jumps to the impact of prejudice in the greater community and the cost of broken human community.
The copy I purchased contains an Afterward written 20 years after he wrote the main body of the book. In this Afterward, Berry outlines the consequences of broken community. Because whites were separated from working the earth and moved more and more to working for the greatest gains, we lost touch with Creation and designated others (those he saw as lesser) to do the work we no longer wanted to do. Success measured by power and wealth replaced a concern for the people around us and community became less and less important.
Berry states on page 129, “Our place of safety can only be the community, and not just one community, but many of them everywhere. Upon that depends all that we still claim to value: freedom, dignity, health, mutual help and affection, undestructive pleasure, and the rest. Human life, as most of us still would like to define it, is community life.”
We are the church; we are a community. We need to grow and strengthen and broaden our community so that others may see and do likewise. We all succeed together, not by competing, but by loving God and loving all the broken humanity around us and in so doing, we begin the process of healing for all of humanity.