Marlpool United Reformed Church
In serving our community, we pray that they may come to know the love of Christ through us. In John 13, Jesus washes the feet of the disciples and gave them a new commandment to love.
We feel that we are serving the community of Jesus' name
Minister’s Heart: am I because we are?
It has been great to have a week off, although I have missed doing a few things and meeting a few people. Life had been great since the easing of lockdown measures last month. It has been great to socialize again. If anything, this pandemic has shown many people how much social interactions are crucial to our wellbeing. I think that this pandemic has disturbed, fragmented and reorganised communities. The whole world is not as connected as it used to be. Our very nation is not as connected as before the pandemic: the pandemic has sadly exacerbated many differences is our nation.
I would like to reflect on what make relationships, families and micro-communities special. First, we may feel that we belong, that we are accepted for whom we naturally are rather than what we own or achieve. Second, we may feel that we are given the opportunity to thrive, to make a difference, to use our gifts and to have fun. We strive for friendships, companionship, ideological kinship and even romance. Third, it may be that we feel secured, protected and cared for in times of need. Fourth, it may be that we have not chosen our community for whatever reason; we feel that we have no choice to belong and given the choice, we would rather not. Communities achieve so much than what the sum of isolated individuals’ efforts could. That is why it was famously said that ‘it takes a village…’. This is increasingly threatened by individualism, consumerism, superficial relationships and narcissism. Koinonia is the Greek for community, association, communion, joint participation and fellowship. The world also comes from the Greek koinonos, meaning partners, sharers, and companions. Koinonia is deeper and more intimate than fellowship. In the Bible, the Holy Spirit binds Christians together, to form such an exemplary and attractive community of solidarity, participation and shared identity.
This leads me to the concept of Ubuntu: I am because we are. It is connected to Jesus’ command to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… Love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Mat 22.37-39). The Message translation puts it slightly differently: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence… Love others as well as you love yourself’. I think that Jesus went further than that by loving us more than Himself: this is quite difficult to follow. He gave His life for us. Ubuntu has its etymological origin in the Bantu language from South Africa. It has been defined as ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’. How many communities do we belong to, for which this is true? Here is how Nelson Mandela described Ubuntu: ‘ A traveller going through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give Him food, entertain Him…Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question therefore is: are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to improve?’
Human beings are made to fellowship. God made Adam and Eve to have fellowship with Him in heaven. Yet this fellowship is also about having quality relationship, harmony, and mutual respect. Adam and Eve struggled to do that. They shared a desire to know/control more and they did not trust God. God Himself exists in community: God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the perfect model of Community: the three in one, perfect unity in diversity. There is such mutuality, harmony, synchronization, interconnectedness, teamwork, commonality between the three person that they feel like one. God seems one although three-fold, precisely because of the perfection of the unity (not unicity) of the Father, son and Holy Spirit. Many great couples try to mimic this. They know each other so well that they look like the other half. They can finish each other sentences. They live to make each other happy: by losing oneself and risking their own fulfilment for that sake of the other, they truly find personal happiness.
About Ubuntu, Desmond Tutu said: ‘if you want to be nice to yourself, start in a way by being nice to the other’. Every Christian congregation is seeking to live this Ubuntu to the full, by placing Christ in the centre, at the heart of all they do; by allowing the Holy Spirit to bind them with the cords of love; and by treating all as beloved, precious children of God. It is by truly loving one another (often self-sacrificially like Jesus) that we truly feel loved and fulfilled.
May the Lord keep pouring Ubuntu love among us.
Yours in Christ, Bachelard