Pondering Life in Community

This is what I am thinking about this week…

  • Community itself is not our source of Life.
  • However, within community, we experience the reality of Christ in our midst.
  • Through shared life we encounter Christ as our source of Life.
  • In what activities are we actually sharing His life with one another?

I would love to hear what you think.

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16 thoughts on “Pondering Life in Community

  1. Grace, this is a very perichoretic topic, I think.

    While the community itself is not our source of life — Christ, the “head”, is — it is the Body, which is intended manifestation of healthy life. One in which our lives are to interpenetrate with each other and with our triune, three-in-one God.

    We experience the Body physically as well as spiritually and emotionally, and this is what gives rise to our ability to be in community IRL as well as virtually.

    Perhaps the more pointed question concerns communitas, which I believe also happens IRL and virtually. This is where we allow the Holy Spirit, the very Breath of Life to this Body, to use the intensity of our liminality — in all its glorious chaos and brokenness — to move us toward each other to practice cHesed.

    Here we humbly give and receive from each other that which Christ knows we truly need — not according to what we might think we can afford (physically, emotionally or financially).

    I think it is the communitas that is the missing piece in understanding community as the “koinonia” of “allelon” in the “ekklesia”.

  2. Hi Grace,

    My wife and I lived in a Christian Community for over 10 years. We shared many aspects of our lives together. Celebrations were in common, We shared common prayers, meals together, we prayed together, ate together. We had common understanding of children’s upbringing, mens and woman’s roles. Leadership while part of the then, Shepherding movement. Showed concern for the well being of the body as a whole. We shared resources and talents. We helped each other move, roof houses, cook meals, we shared households.

    We made a point of living in the same neighborhoods so we could share lives together.

    While it had it’s faults and occasional abuses, and even though we have not been actively part of the community for many years, i still have close relationships with many of the folks.

  3. Peggy,
    Are you saying that we experience the life of Christ in the fabric of our relationships and in acts of one-anothering?

    metler,
    So you experienced the life of Christ in your commitment to one another? Do you think this is possible outside of communal living?

    I hope you don’t mind me probing. I would like to hear what others believe facilitates actually experiencing the life of Christ together. Singing together? Listening to a sermon together? Praying together? Studying together? Working together? Eating together? Perhaps it isn’t possible to dissect when this occurs.

  4. Hi there,

    I have been meditating along similar lines lately as I have been studying through the so-called “upper room discourse” in the gospel of John. Jesus uses such expansive language for the kind of life He has come to share with the disciples, how the disciples resonate this life mutually with each other, and how this affects the world around them. This is very evident in the latter part of chapter 15. The life that he describes does not start with the community of the disciples, however. It starts in the Godhead – and then is extended to us through our divine union with Christ. This is the “perichorisis” union that we get grafted into the vine. It is self-contained and mutually complete in the Triune Godhead – it needs no other entity to be whole. But the characteristic trait of this union is that it desires to share itself with others. So, we get invited to join in on the fun! Then, as we join in on the expansive life of Trinity – then we get to share it with others! And then because we are sharing it so organically, there are those standing on the side-lines thinking “what’s up with that?” That’s what I see taking place – God does not need our participation in His life, but He joyfully shares it. Likewise, we don’t “need” the community of the saints, but because we are filled with His expansive life we cannot help but share it with others “on the vine.” It is the natural by-product of the Divine Life. Read this understanding now into the places where Jesus says things like “so that your joy may be full.” Our mutual joy that we are actively experiencing with Christ, is made more full as we share it freely. However, I think that it is a real temptation to start going to the community to find your joy – we will be disappointed and frustrated.

  5. Grace, you said: “I would like to hear what others believe facilitates actually experiencing the life of Christ together. Singing together? Listening to a sermon together? Praying together? Studying together? Working together? Eating together? Perhaps it isn’t possible to dissect when this occurs.”

    IMO – While I think those are all valid responses to the active experience of “Christ in us” – I don’t think it is possible to either nail down what experiences are valid or not, or to quantify which facilitates or does not. What I have witnessed far too often is a group of people selecting a few possible methods for communal responsiveness, and then expecting that doing those things together are going to somehow produce life. Life is only produced in the abiding and active response to the sole Life-Giver – Christ.

  6. Great thoughts alex. I will take another look at John 15.

    Agreed that this Life originates in the godhead and we are invited to share in its abundance. We do each experience participation in this relationship, but I am wondering if there is an aspect of Christ’s life that can only be experienced corporately.

    I agree that various methods may or may not produce life. Maybe we have to be sensitive to the life of Christ within us to experience the moments of shared life together. But how do we plan for that? ;)

  7. Grace I suppose it is possible without a structured community. I agree Jesus is the center of all things, life is in all things etc etc. Isn’t that the point of it all.

    But we have all had “church” and still miss community.

    The community we lived in had 2000+ adults and about as many kids we lived in the same geographical area and not secluded. We were ecumenical but didn’t share communion, we did that based upon our various christian disciplines.

    You asked: “So you experienced the life of Christ in your commitment to one another? Do you think this is possible outside of communal living?”

    The Christian life is a life of serving one another and commitment to one another. So I dont think it is possible with out being willing to serve.

    It’s not really that abstract.

  8. I found Shane’ Hipp’s recent dialog very important. Two that stood out to me were shared history and permanence. Shared history become the experience together that allows us to live similarly and connect. Without it we struggle to connect. Permanence becomes the things we hold onto when the going gets tough and everything gets shaken.

    Much of what we practice in community is practicing love and trust, not just talking about it. I find that this practice is the working out process that reveals Jesus in the moment.

  9. In my experience, one of the keys to developing community is consistency and commitment. It’s only when we commit to being there for each other on a consistent basis, physically and emotionally, that we can develop be comfortable enough to let down our guard and be real. I find, though, that we take our community experiences for granted, squeezing them in between all the other “stuff” we have to do.

    What kinds of experiences help us share Christ with each other? I think that varies from person to person, and community to community. I know that I need to be able to talk about my spiritual life with others, but working on a mission project, while great, doesn’t help me feel really close. But I know others who have the opposite experience. I like Alex’s point about how in any community-building experience we need to be connected to Christ. Maybe that’s what sets certain experiences apart—if the participants are led by the Spirit to be there and allow the Spirit to speak and work to and through them.

  10. I really believe that our unity into His Body is something more than simple analogy. I truly believe that community is the manifestation of incarnation in the world today. The degree to which we are genuine community through His Spirit is the degree to which Christ’s presence is seen, felt, heard in the world.

  11. metler,
    We do experience the life of Christ in service to one another, which I agree isn’t really that abstract. ;)

    jonathan,
    This is excellent…
    Much of what we practice in community is practicing love and trust, not just talking about it. I find that this practice is the working out process that reveals Jesus in the moment.

    Shane’s stuff was good. At the moment I am pondering more specifically how we experience Christ in community than how we experience community together. Vulnerability and emptying sound like a good place to encounter being filled with the life of Christ together.

    teresa,
    Good thoughts, community not as an event, but as a spiritual experience. It is important to realize this dynamic.

    we need to be connected to Christ. Maybe that’s what sets certain experiences apart—if the participants are led by the Spirit to be there and allow the Spirit to speak and work to and through them.

    sacred vapor,
    Not to discount the importance of a close personal relationship, but there is an aspect of God that cannot be experienced apart from the body.

  12. jamie,
    Exactly! I wish you wrote this blog. You always have the words for what I’m trying to say. :)

    Can you flesh this out?

    “The degree to which we are genuine community through His Spirit …

    Describe what this looks like to you.

  13. Grace…sorry to be away, but I don’t seem to be getting notifications about comments :(

    Anyway, you asked: “Are you saying that we experience the life of Christ in the fabric of our relationships and in acts of one-anothering?”

    And I would yes — but the relationships are all tied up in the Spirit’s breathing in the Body so that our attitudes are loving and gracious and merciful, leading to actions that reflect mutual submission, sacrificial service and courageous initiative in the doing of the “one anothering”.

    Living the perichoretic reality of the 3-in-1 God who is in us by the Spirit so that the many-in-one can form the Body then makes us in them as the Bride dances with the Groom — so many images of one-ness it is overwhelming.

    The key is the Spirit’s breathing Christ’s life into us at all times so that we seek to get and stay connected to the Body, in whatever manifestation we are able.

    Sorry…rambling…gotta go eat something.

  14. I can only speak from experience on this. Community spurs Christian growth. Period.

    I said I could only speak from experience… well, untrue. The accounts of Jesus with His disciples suggests the same.

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