Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Create Community This Christmas
"Community is currently rare."
--M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, p. 25
After Black Friday, which started on Thanksgiving Day evening (making harried shop workers decidedly less-than-thankful for being ripped away from their families during what should have been one of their few days off), news reports rolled in of mayhem in shopping centers and in stores across the nation, providing proof of Peck's assertion that community is currently rare. Not a whole lot of community to be found when one guy cuts in line, another complains, the line jumper takes a swing at the one who complained (quite legitimately), and the one registering the complaint pulls a gun on the line jumper. Not much community when shoppers fight over an item that once bestowed on a loved one for Christmas will in most cases be forgotten by the time next Christmas rolls around. Not much community to be found when violence rises in shopping centers over a holiday intended to remind us of the Prince of Peace born so long ago. Peck adds:
"In and through community lies the salvation of the world"
--M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, p. 17
So, how do we help to grow community instead of shattering this Christmas season? Let's return to Jesus himself for an answer:
Luke 10:27: [Jesus] said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." NRSV
This was followed by the parable of the Good Samaritan. Samaritans were considered enemies of the Hebrew people (although they believed what Israel believed and worshipped in nearly the same way ... but at a different temple, which was the major irritant in the relationship). The story deals with a Jewish person traveling along the steep descending road from Jerusalem, a road frequented by thieves. This son of Israel is attacked, robbed, beaten, and left along the roadside for dead. To make a long story short, two church officials of Israel see the man and do nothing. The third person to encounter him was a Samaritan merchant. This man not only stops and cares for the fallen Israelite, he also binds his wounds, takes him to an Inn, pays for 2 months of care, and promises to return and pay anything more the innkeeper expends to make this Israelite whole. The Samaritan does all within his power to help this stranger, this supposed enemy of his people.
My suggestion to you is that we each try to be like that Samaritan as much as we can. This shopping season, help those you find struggling, wherever you come across them. Be kind, generous, and gracious in all public encounters. Smile and appear relaxed (whether you are or not). These behaviors are contagious. You never know how much a small act of kindness may mean to someone else this season. Work for justice as well, if that is among the gifts given to you. And if you think this is too big to accomplish on your own, Brian McLaren reminds us we don't have to go it alone. Call on God. God is a resource of great power available to you this season and God's glad to help. As McLaren poetically states:
"There is a river that runs like a song through this world, a river of sacredness, a river of beauty, a river of reverence and justice and goodness. I know that some people have only rarely seen or barely sensed it. But I know that you and I are learning to live like green trees along its shore, drawing its vitality into us, and passing it on for the healing of our world. Its waters are clear, refreshingly cool, and clean, and if you dare, you can strip naked, dive in, and swim." Brian D. McLaren, Naked Spirituality, p. 237
Let's see if we can make news as peacekeepers and community builders this season. After all, it's Jesus we celebrate and Jesus prayed that we all might be as one some great and shining day. It's a goal worth working toward.
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