We need beloved community. Thank God it is the purpose of salvation.
Sep 13, 2020
For this week’s events and happenings at Reservoir, click “Download PDF.”
Click this link for today’s Spiritual practice, “Rock of Ages,” led by Vernee Wilkerson.
To watch the online worship service, click the YouTube link above.
Last month, I was taking a walk and I was praying. I was telling God how I didn’t know how to be a parent and I didn’t know how to be a pastor this year. Which is a big deal for me because being a parent and being a pastor is a lot of what I do. It’s a lot of who I am.
What you don’t know how to do this year is likely different, but I bet there’s something. I bet there’s something important that you find strange, scary, hard, or overwhelming. So much happening this year that it’s not surprising life feels strange, scary, hard, or overwhelming, and that if we pray, we’re going to say things like I was saying to God: that we don’t know how to do the things that are important to us. We don’t know how to be the people we need to be.
So I’m walking along a side street, saying this to God, and I have this sense of what God is saying back to me. I feel like God is saying to me: Steve, I think what you really mean is that you don’t know how to do these by yourself. You’re scared of being alone. You mean that you need partnership, you need help.
And I was like, that is so true. I don’t need to know how to be an amazing pastor for a church that doesn’t gather in person for worship. No one knows how to do that yet. And I don’t need to know how to be the kind of parent I want to be for three teenagers, living through all the disruptions and losses and changes of a pandemic. No one knows how to do that.
What I want, what I need, is to not be alone in the most important things I am and that I do. I need to know that God is in it with me, for sure. But I also need to know that I have shoulders I can lean on, partners I can ask for advice and help, allies who will have my back, encouragers who will say: you got this, Steve, and who can help me be true to the best of who I’m supposed to be. I need a community.
So I stopped talking to God about trying to figure everything out or how to be a perfect pastor or perfect parent. That’s all out of reach. I started talking with God about how to be more together, more partnered, less alone in these things.
I’m trying to all the parts of my life not alone, to be part of what we call Beloved Community.
Let me read today’s Bible, just three verses.
Matthew 18:20 (NRSV)
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
Jesus said this while talking about how hard but how important it is to forgive people. And he said don’t try it by yourselves. Ask for help. Pray together. Forgive together.
Anytime even two or three people are together in the name of Jesus – meaning just they trust Jesus is with them, Jesus is like, Bam, I’m showing up. I am especially there.
Jesus says: friends, you can do hard things. But you mostly don’t have to do them alone. I’m there in special ways when you’re together.
John 17:21 (NRSV)
that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
As Jesus prayed for his future followers – you and me included – he prayed that we’ll do this together, that we’ll foster and experience connection, unity. And Jesus was super mystical about what would happen there – that as One as God and Jesus are, as One as God the Father/Mother and God the Son of God are, as one as Creator and Christ are, may our oneness with God – our being at home with God and knowing God is at home with us, be like this. Jesus prayed: God, help your kids be together in loving connection, so we feel that God is with us like this. And so other people will see God is with us.
We hear that verse in big-picture, super abstract ways, like if all of humanity, or at least all followers of Jesus would have some kind of unity, that would be awesome. Which, sounds great, but sounds so far from our experience, and I don’t know how to do that. But we can at least start small scale. To give ourselves to the kind of loving, interdependent, interconnected relationships that help us know and show that none of us are alone and God is with us.
I Corinthians 12:27 (NRSV)
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
God had a body that was the person of Jesus of Nazareth. That Jesus’ body was God on earth. And Jesus and his first followers said to everyone else who lived somewhere else at the time and all of us who’d come later: it’s good it’s not like this anymore, because now God is around as a Spirit that you can feel but can’t see. And now God has a much bigger body. It’s called the body of Christ, and it’s made up of all of the followers of Jesus.
What does it mean to be part of God’s body now? What does it mean to know the names of other people who are part of God’s body? What does it mean to live on earth as if together, as if we are mainly how God will do anything good?
There’s a phrase for all of this, the phrase “Beloved community.” It’s a phrase that was popularized by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 60s, to describe the just, inclusive, sisterhood and brotherhood of all humanity.
Beloved community is central to our faith. It is central to the purpose of what we call salvation. God wants us to not be alone. God’s plan for us to know that we are loved and we are important is to be part of relationships that show us that. God’s plan to love the world is for God’s children to show people they are loved and they are important. And God’s plan to bring greater healing and justice to the world is for inclusive, loving communities to do what is just and merciful, to help more people fully flourish.
We’re going to explore this experience of the Beloved community this fall in everything we do at Reservoir. We want us each to welcome our place as part of community that’s meant to help us know we’re not alone, that we have each other.
We want to experience that more, when the circumstances of our times are trying to rip us apart from one another, to isolate us, to make us alone and scared and helpless.
Friends, that will kill us. But God in Christ means to save us all, and Beloved Community is at the heart of how that will happen.
More in the weeks to come. But for today:
We’re going to show you a video that Trecia Reavis produced. There’s a lot of me in it – sorry. And there’s a lot of our physical sanctuary and property in it to represent what we’re missing and losing right now. But it’s really about God’s work among us, and about the opportunity to be church in a new way in this season, to live beloved community.
Then I’ll pop back on for a second and mention two specific ways we’re trying to promote an experience of beloved community for us all.
Reservoir Church is a beautiful church, but the church isn’t the building, it’s us. And we’re going to be the Beloved community for one another and for our city and world. It’s going to be beautiful.
Before our closing song, we want to see two more, much shorter videos about two ways we’ll make this so this fall.
The second one is about our programs for kids and youth. We recognize that families come in many shapes, sizes, and configurations. Today, we would like to highlight programming for families with youth and young children. We want all the kids and youth around Reservoir to know their important part in the Beloved community, so you’ll hear about that.
And before that, you’ll hear about our community groups – smaller groups of people that meet online and sometimes in person too to experience beloved community together. This is the heart of where the best things at Reservoir happen. And they’re so important that I’m leading or co-leading two of these groups this year. And I’d love for you to be part of one.