Saturday, July 25, 2009
I was sitting in my office on a Saturday morning when the phone rang. It was from a family traveling through Clarksville, wanting to know the times of service and how to get to the church location. In the course of a conversation about the typical things (is Holy Communion offered, what size is the congregation, etc.) we shifted to people. "Do you know. . . ?" As we spoke I knew of some of the people they knew. I could sense immediately a shift in tone when the personal ties between us were revealed.
That is one dimension of the Church that we dare not minimize. The Church is a place where we are known and we know others. The Church provides and sustains us in these connections by which we find that important sense of belonging to accompany God's Word of welcome.
These are things so often missing today -- especially in an urban or even suburban environment. We are strangers in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and shops. But we don't want to be (sure, sometimes we want to be anonymous but most of the time we will exchange that anonymity with solid relationships). Our culture has attempted to replace these connections with familiarity -- a casual attitude toward our name, dress, etc. We are all on a first name basis in our modern world -- but that does not mean we are connected.
The gift of baptism is the gift of roots. We are rooted and grafted into Christ (the body, the vine, the family...). We are connected to Him. But that is not where it ends. We are connected THROUGH Him to one another so that we are no longer strangers but family, sharing in the life and blessings of Jesus Christ, our Brother, who leads us to address God as "Father."
That is why I wonder sometimes why we do so much to weaken these connections -- like the way we spread out in the seats so that we are never too close to others. If connections are important to God and to us, why not sit together? Why is it that we seek out the faces we know and stare at the ones we don't? If connections are important to God and to us, why not seek to make the new faces part of the family album of those whom we know and count as brothers and sisters in Christ?
Connections are important... which is why I try to call those who commune by name... which is why we share the peace made possible through forgiveness... which is why I stand at the door and shake hands... which is why we spend so much on coffee (the lubricant of friendship, it seems)... so that we may manifest the connections the God has declared and put in place by our baptism into Christ and into the family of Christ, the Church.