My hometown was smaller than Church of the Shepherd. Like COS, it was full of wonderful people with all the skills and talents needed to make a community. As a community, they, all of them, were there to watch over me, encourage me, teach me, provide boundaries for me, keep me safe, and introduce me to Jesus. Without my being aware, they taught me many lessons that I have needed throughout my life. One of them was what it meant to be a community- a gathered people that looked beyond the individual and came together for the good of all.
Another lesson was how to serve. To serve not out of obligation, but out of love. Serve not out of pride, but out of humility behind the scenes, at times without anyone knowing. To serve not for what I would get out of it, but what someone else would gain from it. To serve in order to give dignity, empathy, compassion, and love to another.
Serving at times looked like:
- stopping to have a conversation with someone who was lonely.
- picking up trash around town or painting a park.
- waiting tables at community events.
- working together to pass a levy to keep a school open.
- paying a medical bill for a family who needed assistance.
- harvesting crops of a neighbor who was ill or who had surgery.
- neighbors sweeping in at the time of a crisis or celebration.
Sometimes it sounded like laughter, and other times it sounded like weeping. Even as I write these words, I am overwhelmed by what that community of people, the community of my church family, meant to me growing up.
I believe that this is a glimpse of what Jesus had in mind when He commissioned Peter to build His church. All along, God has been creating a community of people to be His presence in the world. From the Israelites to the early church to the church today, God is still using His people to be a light in the world.
That’s why community is so important. Having a personal relationship with God is necessary, but we cannot have a personal relationship with God and not be in relationship with each other. We cannot say we are following Jesus and be doing it alone. That was never the plan.
Now more than ever, the places where we live and work need to see the community of God, the beloved community shining a light.
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