Community: God’s Design for Life

Robert Turner Last Light on the Canyon

Scientists claim the world’s largest living organism lurks in a forest in Utah. Actually they assert the world’s largest living organism is a forest in Utah–an enormous aspen grove to be exact. Since all aspen trees in one grove originate from and remain connected to the same root system, an entire forest can be one organism. Anyone who has planted aspen trees knows you cannot plant just one. Aspens don’t thrive alone.

Neither do humans.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Ezekiel 23:1-49

Hebrews 10:18-39

Psalm 109:1-31

Proverbs 27:13

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Psalm 109:1-31: This is what some call a trouble and trust psalm. The psalmist begins reciting his troubles. Most often they are complaints against enemies. That brings up the question: what kinds of enemies and troubles do we have that are similar or different from the those in Psalm 109?

Also, why, if God knows what we face, recite our troubles to him?

Notice too that the recitation of trouble leads to eventual trust. These poems are a condensation of the stories of our lives. Writing these psalms let the author see God never stopped working. 

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Despite our penchant for rugged individualism, we are more like those tremulous aspen trees than we care to admit. Babies perish when abandoned. Feral children, such as the mythical Pecos Bill are just that–a myth. But what about us adults? Loosing the apron strings and striking out on our own are good and time-honored traditions in America.

But individuation does not eliminate our need for other humans beings. Point out person who has struggled alone through the tough soil of life and I’ll show you a person with a heart as cracked and scarred as a graffiti marred tree trunk. Loneliness and its painful side-effects are rampant in our culture. Sociologists consider Americans the loneliest people on earth. A recent study reported 67% of us are spending less time with friends than ever. Americans live in a virtual disconnect from one another. What about your corner of the world?

Grandmothers are miles from their grandchildren, neighborhoods are empty by day and locked down by night, marriages are broken, fathers are absent, friendships collapse under distance and time constraints. Many of us resemble a withering aspen tree slowly dying after being severed from the tap-root of true community.

This simply points to God’s complex design in us. Like the aspen, we sprout from our family roots and become unique individuals. But we were never designed to thrive alone.

Notice, however, that, although aspen trees are clones, they are as distinct from one another as are snowflakes. In God’s delicate balance between independence and interdependence we have over-loaded the scales toward an isolating independence.

Our interdependence necessitated God create an even larger living organism than the aspen grove in Utah. Presently there are over two billion people in the world who claim to be followers of Christ. The Apostle Paul called this organism the body of Christ. Today we call it the Church. The name doesn’t do it justice. Too often the word “church” pictures a steepled building sitting passively on the corner of First and Main. But church is not passive. The word originally stems from the word “gathering.” For followers of Christ, it depicted a group of people gathered to actively support one another in Christ.

Personally, I have experienced the followers of Christ gathering around me and my family to carry us through illnesses, the loss of loved ones, financial disasters, and the other ubiquitous struggles of life.

Facing just one of those hurdles alone could have spelled collapse. My life has resembled that person’s in the famous poem “Footprints,” with one major exception. When I look down at the sandy beach, I do not see the lone footprints of Jesus as he has borne me through trouble. I recognize hundreds of prints. There, along with the sandal mark of Jesus, are the barefoot prints of my children, the firm, small impression of my wife, the booted imprint of my best friend, the jumbled prints of my family, and the multi-sneakered stamp of the people of God. It’s like coming along behind the track of the Boston Marathon, except it’s the track of the body of Christ.

One of the early followers of Jesus had a similar experience. He wrote, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as we see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) There is strength and hope in gathering with those trying to live as Jesus did.

Lest I paint too rosy a picture, I know the Church is simply a meeting of flawed, and sometimes broken, human beings. Look at any aspen tree, scarred, crooked, creaky. As anyone can attest, the body of Christ has serious blemishes. Many of us, myself included, have been crushed rather than carried by the Church. There is no excuse for inflicting judgmental pain on others. But I have found healing for even those wounds in the Church. And because I have found isolation from God and God’s people to be more painful than the occasional footprint on my heart, I will no more give up going to church than I would shun grocery shopping because I was mistreated in a grocery store.

God’s design of all creation is purposeful and wonderous. The Church is as beautiful as any aspen grove. Are you one of those withering aspens cut off from the root of God’s community? There is relief. Find a shady spot among God’s gathered and sink new roots.

  1. What does your community look like?
  2. Which passage spoke most to you?
  3. What did the four have in common?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Community: God’s Design for Life

  1. elna

    In the christian world we take it so far granted to be a part of a christian community. we can pick and choose which church to go to, which christian radio station to listen to, and even which translation of the Bible we prefer. And we can’t even begin to imagine how the christians survive in countries where christianity is forbidden. We donot know how much people sacrifice to gather together as believers. When we talk about our ‘trials and tribulations’, do we even realise that we are whining about nonsense? Would we be willing to copy the bible by hand, book by book, like believers in China does?

  2. I agree, Elna. We see community as an option–and treat it that way. I do think, though, that many people have never tasted true community, and once they taste it, they want more.

    I’m in a small group that is more than a small group. It’s a community of people who live life together. We share our hearts with transparency. We help each other financially. We take vacations together. Our biggest problem is that we continue to grow (right now we number 18 people). But once we break into two groups, that feeling of community gets lost. My wife and I are trying to figure out how we can accommodate more people. Nevertheless, our community has been an incredibly enriching experience.

    Also, Eugene and I have intentionally worked at being a relational church. We believe that people are longing for community, so we provide plenty of opportunities for people to build relationships, even at corporate worship. I really love what God is doing in our community.

    • elna

      I would love to be part of a community like that …. 🙂 Question: is the idea to have a family like the ‘Ewings’ that all lived in one house? or to keep on making new ‘households’ that can again make new ‘households’ ? I think I may have confused myself by now…

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