Authentic community, the Beloved Community of the the Kingdom of God is based on unity, not uniformity.
March 19, 2023
“Measure Your Life in Love”
How Do You Measure Community?
Matthew 18: 10-20
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Matthew 18: 10-20
“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.
“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If you are listened to, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If that person refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
How Do You Measure Community? Matthew 18: 10-20
How do you measure community? If what is happening around the country and in Kentucky with certain bills being passed or trying to be passed, many would define community as only the people who look like them, act like them, and think like them being the ones who are acceptable within the larger community, that if you do not fit what they consider to be “normal” or “proper” behavior, then you are not welcome, and worst than that, you are seen as less than.
Yet we know authentic community, The Beloved Community which we as people of faith are called to cultivate in our churches and in communities beyond our doors is based on unity, not uniformity. As people of faith, we also know that there is community and then there is Community which reflects radical hospitality. Unfortunately, usually when we think of community grounded in hospitality, we assume that all this means is simply being nice to someone. This has led to a theology and practice of faith for the church, according to Henri Nouwen, of “tea parties, bland conversation, and a general atmosphere of friendliness.” Community grounded in Radical Hospitality calls us to more than simply being nice. It calls us to exceed expectations and go the second mile. Community grounded in Radical Hospitality calls us to not just take care of the least of these but to be in relationship with them as well.
Matthew wants us to understand that being a disciple of Christ demands something more from us. Our call to cultivate community through radical hospitality demands a new way of being from us. It demands a new way of interacting with God’s people within our church walls and outside of our church walls, a way which this world does not understand. Because where the world would write off people and be done with them, community grounded in radical hospitality calls us to do everything possible to heal the brokenness found in our relationships and in our world. Now let me be clear…Matthew is not saying we should sacrifice our own self worth or our own self identity just to make someone else feel comfortable What he is saying is that community grounded in hospitality is filled with forgiveness, mercy and grace, things this world does not understand nor does it want to extend to it others.
Authentic relationship is so important to us as people of faith because we understand that first and foremost grace, forgiveness and mercy was extended to us, not because we deserved it, not because it was owed to us, and certainly not because of what we did. Grace, forgiveness, and mercy was extended to us because of who God is. Our God is faithful from generation to generation. Our God is steadfast. Our God love us more than we will ever know. Our God was the one who first welcomed us, who claimed us, who named us as Beloved Children. And it is our God who calls us to do the same for one another, and not just to the people we like or the people who are like us. Our calling as disciples of Christ demands that we recognize, that we see, that we embrace everyone as our Beloved brothers and sisters, especially the people everyone ignores or tries to push into the shadows.
That’s exactly what Jesus taught and told his disciples while he was with them here on earth. He told them that as his followers, we are called to be vulnerable with one another, to create a sense of belonging for all, not just the people we like. Jesus told his disciples on multiple occasions that the world would not understand this call to community grounded in radical hospitality. He told them that this call to the Kingdom of God was not something they could half-heartedly commit to, that it is not enough to “don’t ask and don’t tell” . Jesus tells the disciples that being in community, authentic community which is grounded in radical hospitality, community which recognizes everyone as made in the image of God was an all or nothing thing. He even told them that those who took up the call to create community, to be his disciple, to work to bring about the Kingdom of God here on Earth and then looked back because it was getting too hard were not fit to be his disciples.
As Jesus’ followers, as the ones who are called to care for one another, who are called to care for our neighbors as God has cared for us, we can’t hold anything back from the community where we worship, where we fellowship, where we break bread with one another, where we work together to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is in our midst. We cannot hold back because we are worried or fearful of what might happen. The call to community which is grounded in radical hospitality calls for us to share our greatest resource which is ourselves. We are called to share everything we have, our gifts, our talents, our light, our love with others to build up the Kingdom of God here on Earth so that one day all, and I mean, all, will be embraced and seen as Beloved Children of God.
You see that’s being in community with one another. It invites all, all of God’s children to come and experience that God is with us, here and now. It invites us to experience God’s presence in the fellowship and connection with broken people, just like you and me. Being in community with each other, being community for each other invites us to come and experience that God is with us in all that we do, in all that we say, in all the ordinary moments which are made holy. Being in community with one another, being community for each other invites us to experience the presence of God made available for all and to all in the seemingly small gestures of mercy we offer and that are offered on our behalf each and every day.
Community means giving of ourselves and seeing that all needs are met. We are to be a part of the community, body, mind and soul to fulfill our call to take care of each other. The blessing is that this vision that Matthew shares of community is not an ideal but is what we truly believe as disciples of Christ. We’ve experienced it in our own lives. No one holds anything back. We share ourselves, body, mind and soul. We interact with one another, no walls, no barriers, no pretenses, just ourselves, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Community is about being in relationship with everyone and seeing everyone as our brother and sister in love. May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, March 19, 2023 – How Do You Measure Community? Matthew 18: 10-20.