It was a heartbreaking moment… the relay team clearly in front as it moved towards the home straight. Their superiority in the event has been clearly established. The last runner sets off, gaining pace in anticipation… only to feel the baton slip through his fingers and tumble to the ground. All is lost.
This scenario was all-too-common in the last couple of days, as athletes renowned for their individual talent pooled their resources in team pursuits. Each athlete showed their prowess, but terrible cracks appeared in the joins.
I stood on the beach earlier this week, casting my newly-rigged rod with its baited line into the surf. It was a few minutes before that first knowing tug was felt on the line, prompting me to begin winding in… the pressure was strong on the end as fish and I battled. Suddenly the line went soft… When I finished reeling I discovered that the fish had escaped, together with hook and sinker. The knot which secured them to the main line had given way. The crack had appeared in the join.
It had been a privilege to spend formative years in what was regarded as a strong church. The leaders were held with high regard for their wisdom and grace. There was a growing and committed group of young adults, developing new leaders for the future, and establishing a creative ministry together. Yet within a short space of time the church would be torn apart, as a result of a breakdown in trust. The crack had appeared in the join.
Community is essential to the purposes of God. From Eden to Israel to the disciples to the church, God has called people into community as a sign of His redemptive purposes. “He has set the lonely in community,” says the Psalmist (68:6) The New Testament talks of the church as the body of Christ, working in partnership with one another. We can work at improving our own spiritual integrity and quality (an important task), but it is the joins where we are most vulnerable as a community: the places where we interact with one another.
Community does not come naturally, or easily. It needs to be worked at. Together. To be the people of God requires that we support and challenge one another in the path of faithful discipleship. Not one of us is capable of a quality Christian life on our own. We are vulnerable at the joins, both individually and communally – vulnerable not only to failure in its negative sense, but also in our capacity to attain the potential that God has placed within us.
How strong are our joins? What are we each doing to give them new strength?
March 26, 2006