Where is God? How do we know God? God designed human beings to experience him through community. In the beginning he created Adam and he determined that it was not good for Adam to be alone. So he then created a partner for him, someone with whom to share his life. These are the very beginning stages of community. And it has evolved over the years. But it is communities that build us, and help us truly experience the Holy every day. Human beings are social creatures. We are designed to live together. Initially, it was for protection and survival. But we learned that we could do more as a community then we could do as individuals. In community, we can work off of each other’s skills and strengthens and they can work with ours. In community, we are able to share each other’s burdens and worries and to share in each other’s successes as well.
My step grandmother is from South Dakota, and she often talks of the culture shock she went through when she first came to Connecticut in 1983. She came from a very small town called Norris. Her nearest neighbor is five miles away. Among the many differences she experienced, community and strict road rules were at the top of her list of challenges. It was always an interesting ride in her car to say the least. Stop signs were optional and she regularly hit things while backing up.
But it was her community she missed the most. They had a very tightly knit community. They often shared their produce from their farms and ranches. They opened their homes to guests at a moment’s notice. As she ages, the community still stops in to check up on her and to take care of her needs. She would meet with her church group multiple times a week and each time someone else would take the lead of their group. When we went out there in 1986, she introduced us to her community family and we were accepted with open arms. If we were a part of her family then we were unquestionably a part of theirs. She said she missed that warmth when she came to Connecticut. She felt as if she had to prove herself to find acceptance in a community. There wasn’t that same kind of openness to strangers.
Perhaps community doesn’t hold that same importance in Connecticut as it does out west. As someone born and raised a New Englander, I have always felt kind of defensive when people say we aren’t warm and accepting. But this week, I have taken these words and turned them around in my head and mulled them in my heart. Perhaps, she had a point. I know I would be hesitant to invite someone I have never met into my house for dinner. I have been hesitant when it comes to broadening the definition of family. And I have asked myself, “Am I a product of the community I was raised in?” I think in many ways we all are. I think sometimes we might worry over protecting that community we hold on to so tightly and in the process may close ourselves off to the possibilities of God in the new relationships that present themselves.
The early Christian Communities of the New Testament particularly in the book of Acts had a very specific idea about what community was to look like and how it was going to behave. We see in chapter 2 that the first converts took this call to community very seriously, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers”. They were called further to give up their possessions and to sell their property so that through sacrifice and equality they could find the true interconnectedness offered to humanity through Christ, through community. For some of us this is very difficult to achieve. Many people by nature are creatures of solitude and look to find faith internally and not in unity.
God calls to us from the pages of our scripture in both the Old Testament and the New to work towards unity; to work towards connectedness. We are taught that the church is the body of Christ. This metaphor is an important one because a body needs to work together for success and needs to communicate through the brain so we can achieve the task we have set before ourselves. If you have ever pulled a muscle, you realize just how interconnected your bodies are and how miserable they can make life when something gets out of whack.
It is the same with community. As a community in Christ we are his body. As Andy Rau from Biblegateway says “we are his hands and feet in this world”. If we are to work for Christ, we do so together and through unity. If we are to gain an understanding of God in this world, then we do so through each other. We are called to be interconnected with one another. We are called to find God in our relationships. We are called to take the time to open ourselves to someone new and to invite them into our spiritual home, our spiritual family, our spiritual community. So go forth and ask yourselves if you have placed barriers between yourself and God’s call to community? And if so is there a way to become more connected? If you feel as if you can’t find God then look towards your relationships and search for him there.
 Acts 2: 42, NRSV.
(based on Acts 2: 32-47, RSV)