We need eyes and ears on us. We need a large and extended family and friends to watch over us, gently guide us, and, if you will pardon my bluntness, to give us a good kick when we go wrong. These are not accidental. They are by God's design. It is the Lord who designed the family for us, who gave us that extended family, and who surrounded us with a full complement of folks in church and community. In a time in which we have lived hidden in homes where we work and play and watch around us through our screens. The person touch has been missed but even in this context we acknowledge the truth of family and community and church.
But there is another side to all of this. It is not simply that it takes a village to raise us but that we are a village. In us live those who went before us. I am not simply me. I am a composite of my mother and father and brother and grandparents and aunts and uncles and great aunts and great uncles. They are alive in me and through me -- not as a consolation prize for eternal life but because of eternal life. I carry them not as voices from the grave but as a people of faith who delighted in my birth even as I grieved their death -- together under the cross.
There are more. The whole company of the saints and martyrs live on in us and through us. We carry them not as memories of those gone but as the people of God who live. Our faith was passed down to us through them, the witnesses who delivered to those to come after them the testament or sacred deposit. We owe them honor and thanksgiving for their faithfulness and if we are grateful we will do the same to those who come after us.
No man is an island. We are not alone or solitary but live in debt to those who went before us and live with a duty and obligation to those who come after us. This should not come to us as a surprise. It is the shape of any real life and it is the shape of that life which is the most real of all. It is the shape of our Christian lives. We are heirs of an astonishingly rich tradition of the faithful and it is our one duty in Christ to faithfully pass on to those to come that same holy confession. Whether we pray alone or in a great congregation, we pray the same Our Father. In the creed we confess Jesus who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. The gift of forgiveness is not some narrow grace between God and the sinner but the blessed means to real community and the power of love to glue the broken together again and restore the whole. Heaven is not some individualistic utopia but the place where reunion and resurrection are enjoyed in the presence of Him who gives forgiveness to the sinner and life to the dead.
We are all villages. Either we are the village of the world with a hopeless end or the village of the Church with an endless hope. All of this is hidden and seen only by faith now but then face to face. The bosom of Abraham holds all of our ancestors and in the end it will hold us. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not a historical reference but a confessing of those who live even though they die. With the great patriarchs and prophets of old, we add to them the saints of the New Testament, those with mighty names through time and history, and those known only to us and God. It is glorious.
Why we would settle for an individualized faith in which it is me'n'Jesus against the world is beyond me. We need a posse and a cohort, an army and a community. That is the gift we forget to celebrate when we look into the mirrors of our souls. We are all villages of God's making. Thanks be to God!