What sort of homes and communities do we come from? We will be bringing our experiences with us. Our culture is not used to shared life with an increase in the sense of what makes a family. We are on shifting ground. What does community mean to us? There may have been times in our lives when we have been distant from community.
Bonhoeffer's in 'Life Together' explains how a radically new way of belonging was the only way which Christian witness could become effective.
For Bonhoeffer community is a SPIRITUAL REALITY. We are here because we live under authority and community is formed by the Holy Spirit. A Christian community is there because God wills it - we are part of a bigger picture. It is all because of God's grace and mercy and community life is a gift in Christ.
He describes Christian community a a 'gracious anticipation'. We live in the thick of foes...we are a scattered people...it is a privilege to live in visible fellowship because our brothers and sisters are scattered and persecuted unlike us. How grateful we should be to God!
A community of the undevout - this is when we become church - it is when we can not keep up the energy any more to be good and nice. At Lee Abbey, for example, they did reach breaking point and friendships did fracture. What do we do at that point? To shift from idealism to grace. No one can live up to ideals because we live by grace. Don't live aiming at idealism, you'll end up condemned. Expect it to be messy. We are undevout - we look messy to the outside world - how could we look any other way - but broken!
Idealism is thinking that the perfection of community is required for God to be present - actually God is present in our brokenness - it is by God's grace that we can live. Rowan Williams: 'The greatest gift is the gift I have not because there I learn to live by grace. '
Henry Nouwen talks about the community of hospitality and how we need these boundaries to come together - hospitality requires the setting of boundaries - we welcome others into our shared life but we need to risk and give each other permission to ask the bigger questions. If others suspect we have it all sown up and dare not ask questions, then are we being truly welcoming - we need instead to risk real questions and be prepared to look foolish - don't play safe - there is no future in this!
Jean Vanier describes how community can be a terrible place, our egoism is there and we will discover all that is horrible about ourselves. We could love perfectly from afar but being in community it will test our perceptions of ourselves. We will have to deal with ourselves and our vulnerabilities and jealousies and our egoism.
St Paul describes how in 2 Cor 5 , we are in a community of unveiled faces - from now on we look at no one from a human point of view. The person sitting next to you could be the biggest gift this community gives you. It is about God and it is about people. We are 'cracked pots'.
What aspects of shared life do you enjoy?
What aspects do you dread?
How will it lead you into a more mature faith?