Monday, July 10, 2006
The Church Gathered... The Church Scattered
This little community that we are a part of loves to gather. We love each other’s company and the company of Jesus that we find in each other. “Gathered” is us in my sitting room, or in Marty and Carey’s garden, or in the corner café, or at sunrise on the beach. We gather here and there. We’re not really picky. We just like to be together.
But we also scatter. We go out and do our jobs. We study at our universities, teach our classes, record our albums, play our gigs, prepare our seminars, align our patients! And when we’re out there doing the jobs God has given us, we are still the Church. We are the Church scattered through this city, bringing the sweetness of the fragrance of Christ.
We put a lot of emphasis on the importance of both words. We love to gather. We love to scatter. We often say we’re the Church gathered AND we’re the Church scattered.
But very soon now, some of us are going to scatter pretty far. Rachel has already left. She flew away to NASHVILLE (!!) to start her masters degree program. Nelly will be off in a couple of days to find God’s path for her to Italy. She can’t quite shake a long-time love for the place. She’ll be on a three-week prayer sojourn with friends from 24-7prayer before doing a week of language school and then heading to the States to pursue some avenues for a longer-term return.
Barbara has always been our wandering pilgrim, but in the last few years, we have enjoyed her consistent presence as she has lived a somewhat settled life here among us. But things are stirring and Baba is off on an overland journey to Palestine to be Church on the road with a group of friends. And when she does come back, she’ll be making her home base the farm up north. It’s not much more than undeveloped land and a lot of olive trees right now, but it will be a peace-filled refuge in the not too distant future.
And we’ll be heading out by the end of August to go to the States where we will be preparing for our new life in East Africa.
Maybe we shouldn’t have talked so much about following God on the wild paths he puts before us. Maybe we shouldn’t have said that we’ve got to stop talking about being missional and just start being it. I don’t know… it’s just that this scattering thing is cutting a little too close to my heart right now. I like us gathered a whole lot.
Barbara sent me the following today. Emma Cowan sent it to her from Ireland…
"We have to keep in mind that community, like solitude is primarily a quality of the heart. While it remains true that we will never know what community is if we never come together in one place, community does not necessarily mean being physically together. We can well live in community while being physically alone. In such a situation, we can act freely, speak honestly, and suffer patiently because of the intimate bond of love that unites us with the other even when time and place separate us from them. The community of love stretches out not only beyond the boundaries of countries and continents but also beyond the boundaries of decades and centuries. Not only the awareness of those who are far away, but also those who have lived long ago can lead us into a healing, sustaining, and guiding community. The space for God in community transcends all limits of time and place."
-Henri Nouwen in 'Making All Things New'
It comforts me to know that some forms of community are not bound to geographical closeness.
As we scatter, we carry the gathered with us.