There’s something in all human beings that draw us together to create communities. I don’t think it’s a passion for laws, rules, or guidelines. Nor do I think it’s about being enslaved or indebted to one another. Instead I think there is something in the way we are made, or wired, that gives us an internal longing - a sense of being and belonging.
In the previous post I spoke of the Holy Trinity, and the early Christian image of God’s Three-in-One characteristic, perichoresis, as a circle dance. The never ending flow of giving and receiving between God (Father, Sin, and Holy Spirit) is a pattern of reality where God is not only the dancer(s) but also the dance itself.
This idea, which is spelled out beautifully in Richard Rohr’s book The Divine Dance, tells us something about who we are having been created in the image of the divine. That is we were made to been in harmony with one another just as God is in perfect harmony with God’s truest self.
Perichoresis, the circular dance, would suggest we are made for community. We might like our alone time, but too much of it isn’t good for our mind or spirit because it goes against the natural idea of being made in the image of a God who does not work alone.
The problem we seem to have then is trying to figure out where we belong. A few years ago my family and I moved to rural Michigan, a 180 degree departure from where we were in a giant urban city that had more residence than all of “the Mitten.” Like anywhere in the world there were many different groups to identify with. But which one would my family and I join?
We spend so much time in our life trying to find our place and where we belong; often relying on the basic framework of family, church, work, school, or social communities. This can offer all sorts of dangers (as well as joys) each depending on many different sets of criteria.
But Jesus came and taught of a new community and a new family; not one made from blood and DNA or which high school you go to. When a crowd had gathered to hear him preach, someone told Jesus, “Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside trying to get in.” Jesus answered by saying “For whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-49)
The Quaker teacher Douglas Steere was fond of saying that the ancient human question “Who am I?” leads inevitably to the equally important question “Whose am I”—for there is no selfhood outside of relationship.”
In his book Let Your Life Speak, author Palmer Parker writes, “As I learn more about the seed of true self that was planted when I was born, I also learn more about the ecosystem in which I was planted—the network of communal relations in which I am called to live responsively, accountably, and joyfully with beings of every sort. Only when I know both seed and system, self and community, can I embody the great commandment to love both my neighbor and myself.”
Jesus tells us we become family and community by hearing God’s Word and obeying it. The word is the seed that will produce the fruits of the community. We each have the seed planted within us. It’s been thee long before our birth. While that seed will grow, to what size or to bear what fruit is up to us to work out.
I believe that to do the will of the Father means to follow the example of the Son. He taught us how to love one another and forgive each other - these two things seem to be at the root of healing and transformation. We can do what Jesus did (as difficult as it might seem) because we have the indwelling of God’s Spirit, the seed that grows and grows and grows.
God has invited us into community with the Trinity. We are invited to join the circular dance and to be the dance ourselves. Accepting this invitation is how we become brothers and sisters despite birth order, parents, or social status. By saying yes to God we become children of God.
So instead of asking where do I belong, ask: To whom do I belong?
Instead of saying to what do I belong, ask: To which do I belong?
Instead of saying how do I belong...just be who God made you to be in the first place.
Which is to say...as beloved children of God the Father, heirs to the blessings alongside of God the Son, and doers of righteousness with God the Holy Spirit.
Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Jossey-Bass: 2000).
Rohr, Richard. The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation. (Whitaker House: 2016).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”