Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day-by-day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. –Acts 2:46-47
This semester, I have the opportunity to teach a class on Christian Worship at Brite Divinity School. In our first class this week, we had a discussion in which one student pointed out that we often think about our faith as a deeply individual experience, but that scripture teaches us that faith is also about community.
That statement articulated one of the challenges of our Christian faith. The truth is, our faith is deeply individual, but is also communal. Still, many churches often focus only on the individual journey. Consequently, many of us have come to believe that the highest form of our faith is the expression of our full individual self. As a result, we become hyper-individualists.
However, it is in community, in shared understanding, shared experience, shared purpose that the collective spirit of our faith becomes possible. It is in that shared experience, in genuine, supportive and accountable presence to each other and before God that the work of justice and peace for God’s realm on earth actually becomes possible.
The South African philosophy “Ubuntu,” translated as humanness and expressed in the phrase “I am because we are,” can be seen as the organizing principle of community. Surely this was the experience of the early church, when Christianity was more of a movement than an organized institution. In the early Christian community, the idea of “Ubuntu” can be seen in its fullness. The story tells us that the early followers of Jesus met together regularly, they worshipped together and they shared meals together and did so with “glad and generous hearts.” The result was a community of individuals who became a people of faith, entering into deep relationship with God and each other, and faithfully following in the way of Jesus.
In this season of Epiphany, perhaps we would find deep and profound joy in the midst of this kind of community: the joy of communal experience emerging out of the cold darkness into the warmth of God’s perfect light. Then, perhaps, in the presence of each other, the Light that is Jesus Christ can change the way we see one another and the world.
Holy One, remind me that I am not in this alone. Remind me that I do not have to “go it alone.” Remind me, today and every day, that you are with me and that other faithful followers of Jesus are ready to journey alongside me. Amen.