Easter 4 - Year A
To have all things in common is to act out what it means to seek the common good.
But do we have all things in common, even within a congregation? What example can you give that will live beyond a moment in time, a specific case?
Wherever we look we find the Common Good as a mantra that covers all manner of greed and advantage. An extended article by Arundhati Roy details one river valley in India and how devastating "the common good" argument can get.
Roy writes: "The millions of displaced people in India are nothing but refugees of an unacknowledged war. And we, like the citizens of White America and French Canada and Hitler's Germany, are condoning it by looking away. Why? Because we're told that it's being done for the sake of the Greater Common Good. That it's being done in the name of Progress, in the name of National Interest (which, of course, is paramount). Therefore gladly, unquestioningly, almost gratefully, we believe what we're told. We believe that it benefits us to believe.
"Allow me to shake your faith. Put your hand in mine and let me lead you through the maze. Do this, because it's important that you understand. If you find reason to disagree, by all means take the other side. But please don't ignore it, don't look away."
It benefits us to believe we are personally engaged in the common good. It is an anesthetic that allows us to continue setting boundaries of acceptable pain and avoid the specific consequences of our self-justified "well-intended" acts. We do this in regard to human sexuality, setting up glbt persons as second-class citizens, automatically consigning them to categories of vice. We do this with the invisible civilian casualties in every war, including the currently continuing one in Iraq. We do this with health care and education and pensions and environment and the list goes on. In the name of the common good, someone must take a back seat.
It would indeed be an occasion for awe to see folks living with everything, including power and control, being held in common. Where are the descendants of this brief moment in time? Is it simply an ideal, like Jubilee, that shields us from continuing to be active in its pursuit for the sake of others?
Let's look again and move away from a bumper sticker arguments for some generalized common good and look at specifics where the devil resides and keeps us confused.
High commitment groups are differentiated from those about them, have an identifiable task and process to meet such, and spend much time together. This description cuts across all theological and political and economic bases for a group.
They both need to be together in all things and to be able to show their values to others (at least as much as they can without captured in an adversarial setting). Without strong cohesion there is not an identity. Without public witness there is no growth.
This tension is always present and different groups, at different times in their life-cycle, choose where they are on the continuum of isolation to immersion. It has been feeling that it is time to focus on the internal commitment rather than the public. There are so many distractions and dilutions around and about, a new version of a monastery would be helpful. If you have a picture, let us all know.
There will come another time when we will be able to handle both ends of devotion and wonder-working, but our hubris in public, our collaboration with dominating power, needs a rest.
It is so easy to translate “the apostle’s teaching” into the “Apostles’ Creed” and avoid the life that was being taught - Jesus’ wider ministry of revealing the Presence and Freedom of G*D. To so engage the world in Jesus’ Way takes a good bit of solidarity that comes from a comradeship or fellowship or common-cause with others who will encourage us to faithful action and pick up additional actions when we falter.
The other pairing of bread and prayer can likewise be seen as fellowship (bread) and action (prayer). Should prayer ever become as language bound as creeds are, it will in that moment lose its power of transformation (Easter-ing).
Whether finding the synergy between teaching and fellowship or prayer and bread, we are at an important decision-making point of engaging and growing into G*D through the loosening of our entitlement to possession (whether of money or breath). This example of finding the Presence and Freedom of G*D to be available, as evidenced by Jesus, and for us to abundantly distribute life’s core values in the face of whatever the economic determinism of the day might be, will be long-term attractive to others and transformational for all.
In this day and age, when we can get so angst-driven about numbers and dollars, it is good to remember that significant and emblematic growth occurs through witnessing to the Presence and Freedom of G*D — by having presence and freedom to reorient from restrictive Mammon to expansive Love.
Want to see peace? Be peace!
Want to see growth? Grow!
Want to follow the Apostle’s teachings about Jesus? Fellowship!
Want to fellowship well? Act on the teachings!
Want to feast? Pray through action!
Want to know what and how to pray? Feast together!
We come and go, learn and enact, commune and pray.
These simple acts of devotion (following through on a promise; living out a vow) lead to acts larger than expected.
Such as these lead to a new community based on the abundance available when each shares according to their resources (gifts). This new community can be contrasted with our old way of doing things on the basis of our greeds to avoid needing. Glad and generous living does have a karmic payoff in the present ground, not in some distant sky.
As these simple acts are learned and enacted, they continue a transformation begun eons ago to bring creation out of chaos and all the stored fruitfulness contained therein. To commune in homes is to then open the doors of the home (even to thieves) and model “Goodwill to all, and to all a new day.”