“Hey, scram! Two’s company and three’s a crowd. Beat it! You’re not part of our group!” So goes the familiar childhood rejection with the pain of fractured community.
During this Easter Passion Week, we remember that Jesus suffered unto death to save and restore his community. To do that he was “despised and rejected…he was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities; he took the punishment to bring us peace, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:3–6)
He calls his community “my church” declaring, “I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18) He identifies it as the place, “where two or three are gathered in my name,” and validates it by his own presence, saying, “there am I among them.”” (Matthew 18:20)
In his book, “Community the Structure for Belonging,” Peter Block writes, “Community…is about the experience of belonging. We are in community each time we find a place where we belong.” His two meanings for the word belong are membership and ownership.
To belong means membership that provides the benefits of inclusion and assurance. Members are recognized and included. They have assurance that they belong and can rest in that.
Jesus invites us into membership with full benefits. “Come unto to me all you that labor…and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28) and, “Whosoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37) “Allow the children to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Luke 18:16)
But wait there’s more! Jesus assures us, “No one can pluck you out of my hand,” (John 10:28) “I will be with you always,” (Matthews 28:20) and, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)
To belong also means ownership of the community. This focuses on our response-ability. Block explains, “To belong to a community is to act as a creator and co-owner of that community. What I consider mine I will build and nurture.”
Jesus emphasizes our community ownership when he calls us to, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:35) He calls us to the creative work of owners by saying, “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do.” (John 14:12)
Block saves the best for last as he writes, “Belonging can also be thought of as a longing to be. Being is our capacity to find out deeper purpose in all that we do. It is the capacity to be present, and to discover our authenticity and whole selves.
“This is often thought of as an individual capacity, but it is also a community capacity. Community is the container within which our longing to be is fulfilled. Without the connectedness of a community, we will continue to choose not to be.”
To be, or, not to be? That is the question.
Jesus’ community answers, “To Be!”
Jesus’ community invites, “Where two or three are gathered Jesus is here so let’s come in, stay, get real, and learn to love.”