Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thomas in Community

I was privileged in 2002 to watch part of the satellite downlink of the Trinity Institute, held at Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York City, just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. One of the two addresses that I heard was by Parker Palmer. In the question and answer period following his address, Palmer spoke of the need for community and identified two kinds of false communities that are present in our society.

They are death-dealing counterfeits of the life-giving community that God wants us to experience.

The first false community is the kind in which everyone has to think alike, to adopt the party-line or they're out. We saw this in the Soviet Union with its Gulags for dissidents and we can see it in some Christian communities where members are required to adopt a particular interpretation of the Christian faith.

The second false community is the kind where you can believe anything you want because no one is really paying attention to you or taking you seriously. If you want to struggle with your doubts and fears, don't bother to do it in this kind of community, because no one really cares.

When Thomas came back to the community of the disciples on the Sunday following the Resurrection, he didn't find a false community that demanded that he accept Simon Peter's or anyone else's understanding of what had happened on Good Friday and Easter. Nor did he find a false community that didn't care if he had doubts. He found instead a community of unconditional love that accepted him as he was - doubts and all - and provided him a place where he could struggle with those doubts and come to faith.

Jesus had formed a community of unconditional love around himself in the months before his death by reaching out to all sorts of folks, even those who were unacceptable in the eyes of the religious establishment. When he breathed on his disciples on Easter, inviting them to receive the Holy Spirit, he gave them the power to create the same kind of community of unconditional love. And that's what they did, and it was that community that Thomas found when he met with the disciples a week later.

We are called to be a community of unconditional love, to welcome all sorts of people with all of their doubts and uncertainties and to provide a space where together we can come to deeper faith.

Are we willing to be that kind of community?

1 comment:

Chris said...

Whoooo = I'm preaching on Sunday, and you've just added the very last bit to my address! thank you!