What is your philosophy? By what values do we live? Does all this Church make a difference?
Perhaps in Europe we have come to live by Descartes’s : I think, therefore I am – in Africa being human is expressed as I belong, therefore I am.
Desmond Tutu translates the African concept of ubuntu as a person is a person through a person. Let me put it like this – When someone asks Are you well? The response is : I am well if you are well.
This sense of belonging is a fundamental spiritual need. It is what I have tried to nurture here over these past ten years. A place of welcome where all belong.
We are social animals. For all human history life has been lived in the context of communities of one sort or another. But communities can be good and bad. They can include and exclude. They have ups and downs. We don’t always behave ourselves!
The bad is easy to recognize, because the history of human kind is as much as anything a history of war and conflict. We read in the record of the past and see in the news of our day that humans have great difficulty getting along with one another—whether it be in the neighbourhood, village, city, state, nation, or world.
As Christians we understand the negative side of community life, and we confess it. Further, our faith and commitment presses us to develop the best side of our lives as social creatures.
The primary prayer of Christian faith begins—OUR—not “my,” but “our.” It is a shared prayer for a shared faith. We understand ourselves as part of a family in which we all brothers and sisters. We recognize that our lives in the context of community must be mutually supportive.
Today’s Gospel reminds us of the good we can do together, and how we can do it. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” If any group of us will gather, work, act with the Holy Spirit guiding us, with God’s spirit intentionally a part of what we do, we become much more than simply the collective number of people we are. Two becomes more than two, and three becomes more than three. The sum of our individual ideas and resources and abilities becomes much more because of the synergy that God’s presence provides.
We do gather in Jesus’ name. We re-call him to presence with us. And that makes him a part of us and of what we do. That is what we experience at each Eucharist—we in him and he in us. But we don’t celebrate Eucharist alone. If only the priest shows up for a mid-week service, for instance, there will be no celebration of the Eucharist. There is no community for whom to break bread.
Ours is a faith of community—of twos and threes and fours—but never of individuals. We act together so we can help one another and so we can work in God’s name, thereby multiplying our resources and ability to do what God calls us to do. Our community is the lifeline to the experience of God and to the power of God moving among God’s people.
While a private spiritual and prayer life is essential for each of us, it is likely to become dry and turn inward if it is not infused with regular doses of shared worship and connection with others, gathered in Christ’s name, and for his sake. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” The gathering—the connectedness—magnifies the Spirit for us and in us and with us.
Today Jesus makes it clear how important we are one to another. Through our link to one another through Christ, there is a power and possibility in our community. There is much more work to do in building and developing this community. There are many more welcomes to be extended. We must safeguard against complacency and self satisfaction. We must work together to make life-giving love more effective among God’s people in this place. We come together, we stay together, we work together in all the tensions, the ups and downs for growth and transformation.
Ubuntu. I am well if you are well.
The community referred to here is The Foundation of Lady Katherine Leveson ( www.leveson.org.uk )