Thursday, November 10, 2011

Elements of Community - Mission

Community is not just a static group of navel gazers that enjoy each other’s company. Community has an outward vector, a direction. This means that people live in community with an end in mind. It is this end that helps solidify the bond between the individual members. As my friend David says, most examples of healthy communities follow the Lego Principle. People, like legos, do not join side by side. In order to connect and enduringly remain together, they demand a common link above and below. The link above is our common connection to the Father, while the link below is this fundamental commitment to mission. In a broad sense, our mission is to serve as a witness to all that Jesus is accomplishing in the space between us, while inviting outsiders in to experience the same. In this way, mission is just as much about loving inward as looking outward. Vanier clarifies this in his book Community and Growth when he asserts, “I am convinced that a community can flourish only if its aim is outside of itself.” (See John 10:10, Matthew 10:5, Matthew 28:16-20, Romans 15:20)

Before this house, my view of mission was far too limited in its scope. While true mission entails saying no to certain things in order to say yes to others, I was far too satisfied at times with just the no's. Let me explain. The ascetic lifestyle always maintained a certain allure to me. Something about a streamlined life of measured simplicity stripped of creature comforts in the name of a greater good seemed sexy in a way. So, when I moved into the orphanage, I bought a mattress and slept on the floor. Paint on the walls was deemed a luxury, food was relegated to tasteless fuel and my wardrobe was trimmed to blue, black and gray t-shirts. It was during this time that my friend Will confessed that video skyping with me made him feel depressed. The drab, empty backdrop of my room made him feel as if he were talking with someone holed up in a bomb shelter. But, it answered something in me. I felt free and deliberate. I felt as if I were living with a mission. I had defined my life through my sacrifices. I was deluded. But, here's the scary reality. I think most of us are. If we're honest, it is easier to define our faith through the sacrifices we make than through manifestations of love. We are not loving others; we're looking for a better version of us. I had not yet learned that all sacrifices are embraced with someone else's best in mind, banking on the hope that God will ressurect life in both me and others where there is only death.

Mission looks different to me now. It's more about what He's doing for us than what I'm doing for Him. I just have to keep up with Him and be accessible to others. In this way, mission surges in almost everything because no activity is too small for Him to inhabit. Playing poker, entertaining guests, preparing a Sunday meal or buying groceries - nothing is off limits. For our part, this demands a vigilance and an active looking outward. It is not enough that we're cool with each other. As long as there are strangers, our mission continues. There is the image of two young Moravian men who sold themselves into a lifetime of slavery, waving goodbye to their families for the last time, one shouting from the boat, "May the Lamb receive the reward of His suffering." And I thought mission was eating ramen noodles out of the only bowl you own.

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