Paying attention to the ‘Us’
We really do need each other. When I first began my life as a Youth Ministry leader at Escondido 1st UMC, our Jr. High leader, Linda Dollins would regularly read to the group from the incredible book We Really Do Need Each Other, by Reuben Welch. As you can imagine, the book is pretty self explanatory. Linda was particularly fond of the story in which a group is heading out on a hike and each person is carrying something that the whole group needs. In order to be safe and successful, each person in the group is critical. For our Jr. High group, a large, diverse group this was an important reminder. If you know Middle Schoolers, they are working to find the balance between ‘me’ and ‘us’. As we stand against the tribalisms that are running rampant in our culture paying attention to the ‘us’ is essential.
As we talk about ‘us’ and ‘community’ it can be too easy to sell short an expansive view of us. There is something seductive about defining the ‘us’ by the people who are already here, the people that look like us or, worse yet, the people who think like us. When these perceptions of ‘us’ become calcified we end up creating an echo chamber that has the effect of shutting us off from the stories and needs of others. As an example, the Apostle Paul’s brilliant conception of the Body of Christ using the relatable image of our own bodies is an excellent way to understand how much we really do need each other. Within the Body of Christ, we are all needed; we are interdependent. As important as this ethos is to the church today, if we are not expansive and self critical in how we apply this concept we can very quickly act tribally and create barriers to people to become part of the community of faith.
The Move Toward Kindom
When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God it was less about establishing a political apparatus than it was about casting a vision of the human community that should in sharp contrast to the Roman Empire. In Jesus’ characterize of community we will know it and experience it when there is justice, mercy, compassion and equality. In contrast to Empire, the Kingdom of God would be a place of healing and restoration. It would be a place of sharing and opportunity for all. You may have noticed lately that I’ve begun using Kindom rather than Kingdom in my language about community. There is a simple reason for this…so many expressions of the church, Jesus and the human community have spoken of Kingdom in ways that cast an image of an Imperial Christ. These voices speak of the Kingdom of God in ways that speak of hierarchy, patriarchy and exclusion. These expression are actually in opposition to how Jesus preached. I’ve come to believe that Kindom is a much more egalitarian expression for today. This is the deeper call to discipleship that resides in the passages we will share on Sunday. The call of the prophet Micah to ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God’ and Jesus teaching around The Beatitudes in Matthew 5 lead us past the pitfalls of provincial attitudes about the community of faith.