Last night was a great night, reconnecting with the Search Committee that brought me to NW Ohio as General Presbyter. We had dinner at Carol’s house. I am so thankful for them, and the work they put in. Anyone who has been on a search committee knows this. Countless hours. Hopes. Dreams. The meal was extravagant (as it always is when Presbyterians gather). But mainly it was a time to say “thank you” as we broke bread.
It was a time of thanksgiving and celebration, but also a reminder that our stories are far greater than our little lives. We are connected in ways we sometimes forget – connected through our greater church life, the work of the presbytery and our denomination, and connected to one another in our dependence on one another and the earth in which we live.
The readings this morning transported me to last night, but they also took me all the way back to Taizé, France where there is a monastery that is close to my heart. It is also a fairly well known monastery these days attracting thousands of young pilgrims every summer in Europe.
I had the privilege of spending a couple weeks of continuing education at Taizé almost 17 years ago. I got to interview Brother Roger, the founder of the community, and really live in the midst of their community for a while. I was honored. Some of the key words you would hear over and over again from Brother Roger were “reconciliation” and “community”.
People these days are hungry for togetherness. I deal with people on a daily basis who are profoundly lonely. What we see over and over is that just because someone lives with a roommate or has a large family does not guarantee avoiding loneliness. Loneliness is everywhere. Taizé is an important place for many troubled souls to reconnect to God and be reminded that their story is a part of the fabric of God’s greater tapestry of grace.
In both our New Testament readings, there are examples of the Christian’s value of community and togetherness in new and profound ways. Jesus blesses the little children. Paul speaks of bearing one another’s burdens.
For Paul, being together in community means something much deeper than restoring a transgressor, and righting a few wrongs, but of a mutual responsibility and forbearance. Being part of the family of faith means sowing seeds of community and responsibility into the fabric of our lives – so that we reap from the Spirit.
Today is a great day. This week has the potential to be a great week. For wrapped up in this season is the ability to make it a season of togetherness. And this year is an opportunity to do it in a new and special way – to mend fences and experience the joy of giving thanks. This is not mere lip service, but a call to the renewal that Paul speaks about and the blessing that Jesus speaks of.
We are called to bless one another. In doing so we value each other in our mutual brokenness. It is not “I will love you if you fix all your flaws, but I love you despite all your flaws.” This is the blessing we give to children, and the blessing we are called to give to others as well. In that blessing carries great power, but also great responsibility, for the two way street of Christian brotherhood and sisterhood means that blessing will come back 10 fold.