I could not help but be aware of last week’s General Assembly when considering the title of this chapter, “Beloved Community,” and much of what Jones said about the church community in this chapter, I had seen and experienced in the past week during our time together as well as over the past year(s).
Jones notes that religion is essentially social, an affair of a beloved community. He says there is a type of life noted in the Gospels that appears to already be the Kingdom (Household) – a type of life in which love is the supreme spring and motive. “The Kingdom of God is something we DO, not a place to which we go…” (p. 10), where each member of both an end and a means to accomplishing the life and purpose of the whole. Yes! Each member called to our community is sacred, brings unique gifts, and was led by Love to us as part of the Journey of both.
God is love. Love cannot be love without being relational. A community cannot be a community without being relational. Our community cannot be “the presence of God in the world”, as the Founding Document calls us to be, without authentically being an expression of Divine love both individually and communally. That is our call. That is our gift. However, as Moore noted in the Introduction, “… the need for every community to see beyond itself. Community is not an end in itself. An inward-looking community will implode. Christ gathered his disciples together to serve a purpose larger than themselves…” (p. xix). Brother Andrew Aelred noted that love and community need to do something, not just be for themselves. So does the Founding Document
Despite what is happening in our country and churches today, God has not gone away, but God is showing up in new ways and places to interact with us. God is love – relationship itself – loving relationship into which we are continually, endlessly, sometimes surprisingly drawn. Jesse noted that it is difficult to meaningfully differentiate the love of Divine action from the love of Divine essence in saying, “The community is God.” Transcendence does not hang over us as a concept; rather we are its bearers. As God wakes up in us, we are to wake up in God. Church and religious life need to be about waking up to God, where divine light shines within leading us “To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” It’s a never-ending evolutionary balancing act, and not infrequently a difficult path, but being about anything else is to be lost and bereft in the desert.