Tuesday, December 09, 2008

4: the Practices of Community


Alright, another month of silence and pondering, another post to add to my definition of community.

First of all, what exactly does it mean to practice. I go back to my childhood when I think of practice, like baseball practice, or practicing to ride a bike, or practicing to drive a stickshift in a old 1984 Nissan King Cap red turned pink truck. Practice is to engage in an activity in order to improve your skill for a desired goal. The problem with this definition is that it seems a bit self-interested - a goal for the self. It can certainly be this. However, we must combine the word Christian with practice, which then changes the scope of the definition. It may be for the self, but only Tertiary. For in Christian practice one engages in activity in order to better show the face of God to the world For the Sake of God's Name. Secondly one engages in order to better others lives in the world as God desires life to flourish. Finally, one engages for the sake of the self, to improve the relationship between self, God, and others. It is a way to see God in the world.

Now if God acts for the sake of love toward humanity, and we are to act like God, then we, too, are to show love to others, giving life.

So what are the practices?

Obviously this is the core of the Christian practice. Prayer and Scripture are the foundational, traditional modes of revelation and conversation with God. This is a time to search scripture intentionally, not aimlessly, but looking into the texts and developing core questions about history, tradition, original message, and what it means for today. Prayer is a chance to humble oneself in conversation with God in order to praise God for who God is, to struggle with God and life, and to present others before God. Though we can do this individually, it is dangerous to be solely alone in this practice. Therefore, it is necessary that there is a Christian community that these practices are tied to in order to aid in maturity for the self.

This is based on the fact that we have much to learn from each other. No one person's observation on a situation or an object is truly sufficient for understanding. Especially when applied to life situations and decisions. However, Conversation is not debate, or argument, but for collective understanding and maturing. With scripture, the collective voice of the community will help shape how the Gospel is applied and communicated today. Thus, if each member is practicing prayer and time in Scripture, then all are able to communicate. However, part of conversation is the disposition of the people to the conversation: first, one must be concerned enough to study and become knowledgeable about Scripture. Secondly, and most importantly, all involved must set aside their desire to be "Right" and instead come together with the desire to understand differently, to agree, to disagree peacefully, and to ultimately aid each other in maturity. Conversation is an ace of hospitality and love.

This practice is the sharing together of bread and drink in order to celebrate the hope and life of the Resurrected kingdom. It is the sharing together of life with each other who are striving to live out the resurrected Kingdom. Thus, Eucharist should be shared regularly, in all gatherings of God's people. It is a physical reminder of who we are, how we should act, and what we are working toward. It is the prime example of Christ's life, death, and resurrection.

Shared Meals
Hospitality is key to the community. The shared meal is the place where all people come together with the work of their hands, the burdens and joys on their hearts, and the knowledge in their minds. When coming together, one should start with Eucharist, beginning the meal in a way that casts the time together in the life of Christ. It is here where honesty, hospitality, conversation, prayer, and life should be shared. It is here where the basic needs of food and relationships are met. Key to the shared meal is the open table: all are invited, even those who do not understand or are not from the same tradition. They are invited in order that they may become friends.

This should still be tied to the Corporate body of Christians. However, Baptism is a key rite in becoming a Christian. It is the physical act of dying with Christ and Raising with Christ. It is the renunciation of the self as God in order to become like Christ (Phil. 2). All are encouraged to partake of this practice.

This is the physical part of the community. Meet each other's needs. Be of service to each other in order that all of life's basic needs may be met and life may continue forward. Service to each other and those outside the community is the act of love which continually validates and encourages each other toward true life in Christ. It is as simple as mowing a lawn, watching a house, cooking a meal, running an errand, or giving a gift. It is as hard as giving up a room in your house, paying someone else's bill, giving your raw talents in aiding someone, fixing their vehicle, painting their walls, or crying and laughing with others in all the times of life.

This is key to the practices. Pride is the downfall of humanity, for Pride is the ability for one to become one's own God. Humility is the answer to pride. It calls for living moderately, for giving your time to others, for listening, for caring. Humility is understanding that we are not God, we are not the most important creatures on earth, we are not the most important people in our community. It is being able to be rebuked in love and learning from it. It is being able to rebuke others in love without tearing them down. It is truly building each other up. We have nothing to prove, we don't have to fight or struggle to be right. Let the life that we live prove itself if God finds it worthy.

Minor Practices:
- Gardening: this allows a person to work the land and commune with creation, it is the ability to produce fruits in order to eat for one's self or to give away to others. Thus, all are encouraged to grown something in order to share.

- Community involvement: This is a way in which one enters the secular world and finds out it's needs, not to change the world in a militant fashion, but to befriend it in such a way that it is encouraged toward life. This may be public office, PTA, or just Neighborhood block parties.

No comments:

Post a Comment