Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Why and How of Community Life

Summary of the talk given at the first meeting of St. Mary's Prayer Fellowship in Sugarland, Texas.
മലയാളത്തില്‍ ചെയ്ത പ്രഭാഷണം ഇവിടെ കേള്‍ക്കുക

Dear brothers and sisters,

As we are having the first meeting of St. Mary’s Prayer Fellowship, I am honored and humbled for this wonderful opportunity to be a part of this celebration and share your joy and excitement.

This new beginning gives us an opportunity to ask the basic questions about our community such as why we exist as a community and how we should exist. This will help us to lay a very strong foundation to our community so that it can grow to its full potential.

Why we exist as a community is the primary question we need to consider. Why can’t we live our life as individuals? Why should we live together? A community is basically a support group in which the members support one another. We never live in isolation apart from a community. We are born into a community called family. This community is actually a family of families.

Let me explain why we all need to be in a community supporting each other. There is an old story of a blind man and a lame man living together. In isolation, each had a very miserable life. When they started living together, life became a lot easier for them. One could see for both, and the other could walk for both. In isolation, every human being is handicapped. Our handicap may not be physical; it could also be emotional, intellectual, or even economical. When we live together in a community, our handicaps will be compensated to some extent. Apostle Paul explained this idea with a beautiful metaphor. He said that a community is like a body. A body is made of various organs. These organs exist only as parts of the body. In isolation, they don’t have existence. The eyes can see. But that is the only ability of the eyes, and so in isolation, eyes are handicapped. The eyes see not just for themselves, but for the whole body. Similarly, the ears hear, legs walk, and the nose smells for the whole body. Like the organs in a body, we are all different from one another. Our skills and aptitudes are different. But each of us is good at something. Whatever we are good at, let us use it for the good of the whole community.

Together, as a community, we do not exist in isolation from the rest of the world. This small community is a part of the human community at various levels. This parish community is a part of the global community of the Indian Orthodox Church, and thus of the Christian community in the world. This community is also a part of this nation, and thus of the global human community. As a community, we have to find out what we are good at, and we need to use it for the good of the higher levels of human community.

We have already seen why we exist as a community. Now we need to turn to the question of how we can serve this purpose.

The first thing is that we need to stay united all the time. The primary characteristic of a community is that it must have unity. There cannot be a comm-unity without unity. Whatever happens in a community, we should not sacrifice our unity. We must keep our relationships intact. Let me explain how this is possible. Every relationship is based on an agreement between/ among the parties involved. When a party breaks an agreement, the relationship will be broken. If this happens, immediately the party that breaks the agreement has to apologize for the mistake, and the other party has to forgive. This way, broken relationships can be immediately mended.

I want to point out two examples from the Bible. One is an example of what we should do, but the other is an example of what we should not do. The story of Adam and Eve gives us an example of a bad relationship. Their relationship with God depended on an agreement. They broke the agreement, and thus they broke their relationship as well. What they did or didn’t do after the relationship was broken is crucial. They didn’t do anything to mend the broken relationship. They aggravated the problem by placing the blame on others. They didn’t apologize for their mistake, and so God couldn’t forgive them either.

The story of Esau and Jacob is an example of a good relationship. Jacob Cheats Esau, his own brother. He realized his mistake when he was cheated by his own uncle. He went back, willing to apologize. He knelt down seven times before his brother and asked his forgiveness, and Esau forgave him right away.

Any relationship can be broken any time. But any broken relationship can be mended if we are willing to apologize and forgive. We all need to learn to apologize and forgive in preparation for a broken relationship that can happen any time. It is like being prepared for a fire by having the fire-extinguishing equipment and by practicing fire drills. Before getting into any relationship, we need to practice the apology-forgiveness drill so that we can save relationships and be in unity.

If we need to stay united among each other, we need to stay united with God as individuals and as community. Our relationship with God is also based on agreements. If we break an agreement with God, immediately, we should apologize, and reconcile with God right away. Without maintaining unity with God, we cannot maintain unity among ourselves.

Our Qurbana, our prayer meetings, our Sunday school, our women’s association, and our men’s association—all these must have the primary purpose of maintaining unity with God and among ourselves. If we grow in unity, we will be able to serve our calling. We will be able to support each other within our community, and we, as a community, will be able to serve the human community.

Thus we will become a community of people that serve each other, and serve the world. This is what our Lord Jesus Christ modeled for us in his life, and this is what we are called for. That is the will of God for us. May God bless us to fulfill this calling!


Jomon said...

Short and Sweet .. Great

Cheriyan Thomas, Bangalore said...

Dear John Sir,
This was a simple and touching message. Thanks for sharing with us. It is very hard to knit together everyone in a Community.
When I heard the word COMMUNITY, I remember a song which a friend of mine sang during schooldays. This friend was with us only for 2 years (If my memory is correct). I forgot her name. But, still the song rhymes in my mind.
Those days when we tell a child to sing, it is obvious that only Film songs or Rhymes were sung. Devotional songs came by if you were in some religious places.
During one of our free periods, just to spend some valuable time, our teacher called up this Girl. She readily volunteered. She was new to our class and we were slowly getting introduced to her.
This Catholic Christian girl surprised us by singing a song on Community and it goes like this:
It's I ,It's I, It's I who build Community (3)
It's you ,It's you, It's you who build Community (3)
It's we ,It's we, It's we who build Community (3)
It might be a simple song. The surprising thing was that she made us sing this Song. During those days, I used to hum it not knowing the meaning. I used to wonder whether this Girl was made to sing the same lines over and over (Even you all must have felt it, by now. I am sure).
But, after I read this Blog about COMM-UNITY, yes I got it. It' 3 persons who build this -It's I, you and it's we. There lies Unity. The repetition I feel is because the writer of this Song must not have been Singing, But rather it's pure AFFIRMATION. Such affirmation can once again be heard in the popular song "We Shall Overcome" Or in Hindi "Hum honge Kamiyab". People affirm for political reasons. But, where has Affirmations for Common Good gone?
I sometimes wonder if all Christian Churches can unite and be "the Early Christian Community" ( as mentioned in the Bible). Note the word COMMUNITY here, rather than CHURCH.
Thanks for taking me back to my school days. Unfortunately, it is in forums like this or in between a travel that my mind goes back to my Alma Mater. But, till now none of my friends are willing to hold a Re- union. I insisted , but who cares?. They have forgotten each other. When I call up, they may respond (as a common gesture) or say they are BUSY.
A class which was a Community to me (I do not know about others). We saw face to face for 12 whole years. When any of our Friends changed school, it was a deep pang inside our hearts (Back in School). But now, when we came out of the School, no one knows each other.
This above syndrome was earlier itself predicted by one of our Late Hindu Teacher (She died few years back and too sad I was the only student from our school amidst all teachers from our former school who were there to witness the last journey. I am not taking pride, but telling you all a Fact). She said during a class, that when we all go out of the School, she was 100% sure that they are not going to come back to see any of the teachers nor are they going to wish them if by accident they spot them at a Public Place. They (Students) will hide their faces and run.
How true it was!!!. The prediction finally came true. Even Jesus went through this pain, when one of His Disciples or should I say Student confessed that He did not know Him.
I recently met one of my Aunty. She was telling about Relationships (She is not a Scholar, just a House Wife). We went to see her and she is a Widow. She recollected the olden days when people (both friends and relatives) used to flock together if they heard someone was ill. She said that her grand father's School friends used to visit their House more often until her grandfather's Death.
Such was the Weight given to RELATIONSHIP or shall we say it is a quality of caring for each other, which sums up as COMMUNITY.
Thanking God for this Group and all lovely members out here.
Thanking You,
With Regards,

susan said...

We must have something in common to form community. Common + unity

The Church has Christ as its center and this is the Common thing that leads us to community.

Sree Narayana Guru took Advaitha beyond Tat tvam asi to I am you and you are me. This is a sound basis of community, but we must grow beyond the material to understand this. In the Christian context when we reach the stage where St Paul said "It is not I but Christ who lives in me" I and You are one.

As children, we were more like this- no religion, class or caste separated us.

Other common goals can also create community. India united to win freedom and there was a sense of community in the freedom movement. You and I were one. But once the goal was achieved, the next generations again became separated and selfish.

This, we can say, is a third generation syndrome prevalent even among Israel.

The Christian community needs the Church and its practices to keep up the community through generations.

with love and prayers
Susan Eapen

John Kunnathu said...

There is something common for all people in the world-- we all live our life here. Life is an adventure trip for all people. We all can have a common goal: live a meaningful life. This can unite all people everywhere.