The Cup of Blessings (in Community)

by Jadell M. Forman

On Mondays at The Neighborhood Café, we’ve been considering Jesus’ question, “Can you drink the cup?” using a glass of wine as a metaphor for life, and taking our cues from chapters in Can You Drink the Cup? by Henri Nouwen.

I have for years enjoyed the front-page, below-the-fold personal interest stories of the Wall Street Journal.  One in particular is apropos in our discussion of community.

During the USA’s financially prosperous years, some Amish people became so well off that they incrementally pulled away from their Amish community where collaboration and interdependence are tenets and a way of life.  Then when the national economy’s house of cards recently crumbled, their independence fell along with it.  They re-discovered the blessedness of community.

In Can You Drink the Cup?, priest and author Henri Nouwen says that we drink from God’s cup of blessing when we share our lives in community.  “When we lift the cup of our life and share with one another our sufferings and joys in mutual vulnerability, the new covenant can become visible among us” (p 69).

What are your thoughts about this Nouwen quote and the WSJ story in regards to the blessing of Christian community?

Jadell M. Forman writes for The Neighborhood Café on Mondays.



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7 responses to “The Cup of Blessings (in Community)

  1. Georgie-ann

    Good morning! Lest I start to go on and on, I will just say that early in my adult years (after college), I had the most unusual and blessed experience of being able to live on a serious communal farm in the Finger Lakes region of NYS for a few years. It was there that I got married and had my first child. The people who ran it were well-intentioned spiritually. The experiences and the things I learned there — during those years — were beyond wonderful and illuminating. I/we thought we had found heaven in many ways. I would have stayed there for the rest of my life,…until,…don’t ask,…

    The long story will become short by not being told. Suffice it to say that hidden deep within the hearts of mankind, seemingly lie the irresistible seeds of destruction of all things potentially good. After some time had passed, irritations and hidden motives becoming partially revealed began to undo some of the loveliness and stability. I’m not really sure how sustainable these human efforts are anywhere, but it was a WONDERFUL experience for a season.

    My eyes, however, were irrevocably opened. I’ve learned to place my faith and hope in God, and to just “keep on keepin’ on” — come what may.

    Love. God bless.

  2. Linda

    I, too lived and worked in a Christian community for a brief time. Imagine a “girl’s house” filled with baby believers and no in-house leader…enough said, and yet I am still in touch with one of those women to this day. There were glimpses of genuine community, and I learned my first really big lesson about forgiveness there.

  3. Nearly all of those Christian “communes” from the early 70s fell apart (JPUSA in Chicago is the only remaining one that I can tell). Linda, I’m not sure if you lived at Mercy Farm, just north or Denver, but I have other friends who lived there. Over time, the noble intentions of the leader turned into fear and control. Ironically, JPUSA has received the same criticism. It does go to show that true day-to-day community will eventually reveal our shortcomings.

    Yet, in the face of an increasingly isolated society, I wouldn’t be surprised to see those communes eventually surface again.

  4. Georgie-ann

    Well,…I would say that — realistically speaking — where humans are involved, there will always be plenty of individuality and “don’t tread on me” impulses to go around, especially in this culture, when the “communal honeymoon” is over. And there seem to always be those with “a vision” or “better advice” or “a word” or a plan for someone ELSE to follow (who might not be so keen on the idea!), and so on and so on. We humans are really partial and fallible creatures!

    Mixing in some of the more repressed and hidden unconscious drives and the woundedness in most of us, it’s pretty much impossible for us to predict, and much less solve, all the potential problems that might arise in community — and naivete regarding these matters has never been a very good shield, albeit quite a teaching factor!

    Learning how to allow God to be at work in our midst, nourishing our hearts — as individuals and communal beings — we discover ways of respect and even willing self-sacrifice on behalf of the whole. But it is important to remember that within ourselves and others, there are sacred levels of personal identity, freedom, and calling that should never be surrendered, such as our personal truth in God.

    It takes a lot of wisdom, love and humility — (which God has in good supply) — to guide and manage these interpersonal issues successfully, given that we’re all in various stages of growth. Mixing freedom with order and respect, while not resorting to an impatient style of autocratic efficiency and pride, can be a delicate matter. Maybe this is why God had to make the world such a BIG place — we seem to need the wiggle room!

    I remember being kind of pleased, at one point, with all the good Word and revelations that were coming to Christians in the Body of Christ in our day, the blessings on our families and children, communities, etc. Maybe I felt we had “arrived” or had “accomplished something.” But within a few short years, I found myself looking around at the up-coming “new” generation — (I lived near a public park) — and being quite astounded that the intense work and efforts that we had been making for years in our personal realm did not appear to have had ANY effect on these emerging souls whatsoever! “Oh Lord! The task is endless and much too big,” I know I cried out in despair.

    We touch what we are able to touch with good will. For the rest I am “on my knees” in prayer. The world is the Lord’s. I guess we have to surrender many of its issues to Him.

  5. Georgie-ann

    I wasn’t really trying to be discouraging about communal efforts, btw. People will become more familiar and hopefully closer with one another, and there will probably be lots of heart-warming moments. But given the histories of so many of these endeavors that at one time seemed to devolve into cultishness, it’s probably important to begin with some grounding realism, and maybe potential safe-guards as well,…and maybe not such “great expectations.”

    I would think that keeping a focus on the mutually-needed, beneficial practical reasons for joining efforts together, as well as God’s Word, rather than getting too emotionally carried away on utopian wings, might be a somewhat helpful thing.

    I have to admit that I am very impressed with the closeness I have seen in the Spanish families that I am friends with in Church. I think that there is a lot to learn from the ways they are willing to work with, accommodate and support each other. Certainly nothing is perfect, but I frequently experience a real warmth and joy in the midst of simple togetherness with them, of brothers and sisters in Christ, and “extended family and friends.”

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