Life in Community

Pastor Elizabeth Bier

Life in Community

4 mins
January 25, 2021

Scripture: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

Life in Community

Follow me” Jesus invites. Turn your bulletins to the back page & look at the words for the hymn for today - Will You Come and Follow Me. The invitation Jesus gave to his disciples is the same one we receive today. Come and follow me and you will never be the same. Following the way of the cross - confessing Christ crucified and risen, giving us new life and hope even now, and in the age to come. We are called by name, known completely; trust that we are worthy of that love and life; called to care for cruel and kind alike; following the footsteps of Jesus to care for the orphan, widow, migrant, those on the margins, and see them as part of God’s Beloved Community.

The Iona Community

The author of this hymn is John Bell. Bell is part of the Iona Community in Scotland. Iona is a community of people who follow a Rule of life and faith together, while maintaining their secular jobs. Bell thinks that he wrote this song in the late 1980s as a sending for a young adult who was going to serve in the city for a year. Bell did not intend for this song to stick around. Yet it did and has been meaningful for many. John Bell is one who ministers through song, and the words of this song are fruits of a Christian community’s life together - singing the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As I mentioned, the Iona Community is a Christian ecumenical community whose members keep their secular jobs, yet maintain a rule of life and faith. In case you’re curious, The Iona Rule is as follows:

Daily prayer, worship with others and regular engagement with the Bible and other material which nourishes us

Working for justice and peace, wholeness and reconciliation in our localities, society and the whole creation

Supporting one another in prayer and by meeting, communicating, and accounting with one another for the use of our gifts, money and time, our use of the earth’s resources and our keeping of all aspects of the Rule.

Sharing in the corporate life and organization of the Community

Their Rule is grounded in the baptismal calling of all Christians, yet set in a particular place, with accountability within a particular community. 

Bonhoeffer’s Life Together

It feels appropriate that our Thursday night study group is currently reading through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together. Bonhoeffer wrote this book in 1938 when he was teaching in an underground seminary in Nazi Germany, moving regularly to keep from being caught. He wrote down what he was teaching his students and recorded how they ordered their lives together, with prayer, song, scripture reading, worship and meals together. Bonhoeffer begins by reminding Christians that the privilege of living among other Christians should never be taken for granted. 

Bonhoeffer also knew that living in an intense, closed Christian community, as he was, was not the norm, nor should it be. Travis Rogers, Jr. noted that Bonhoeffer truly lived out the reality that whoever we are, wherever we are, we belong to God. That was the theme of Bonhoeffer’s poem Who Am I? The gift of family, of work, of being in the world, is to get to know our neighbors, seek how to be good neighbors to them, to learn the limits of our own selves and to be pointed to Christ. Our “life together” can be as a family, as a church, checking in on friends; or as one alone, seeking the Lord, as our Psalmist today is. 

And in this life together, we have struggles and worries, distractions that turn us from God. The Ninevites were a fully distracted people. Jonah wasn’t too keen for them to repent; they were the oppressors after all. He only walked one day through the city, rather than the three needed to cover the whole city. Despite his lackluster prophesying, the Ninevites listened, they repented. And Jonah got mad at God - Jonah knows God’s character: “O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing” (Jonah 4:2). Jonah knew in advance that God would be much too merciful to Nineveh for Jonah’s tastes. Too merciful. That is our God.

In the struggle and worries of every day, what is it that interrupts you and turns you to God? A bird call reminding you of God’s creation? Hearing ambulance sirens? Take a moment and pray for those who are harmed & the first responders. Smell of food cooking? Being thankful for the meal. A passing thought of a friend or family member? Pause, picture them & lift them up to God’s care?

Our conversation this past Thursday night turned to prayers from our family and life. Bonhoeffer references one familiar prayer - older than you may realize (at least 1753): “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.” The next time you pray that prayer, I invite you to slow down and taste each word as you pray it.

Come Lord Jesus, be our guest” - an invitation to Jesus to our table, our lives, to a return to this world; to be our guest - one who we serve, as a reminder to serve others;

and let these gifts to us be blessed.” - a reminder that all our lives and goods belong to God. They are gifts of God, for the people of God, to be used in Godly ways.

I shared another prayer from my childhood that I learned has also been around a while, written around 1885 by Rebecca J. Weston for her Kindergarten class in Boston.

Father, we thank thee for the night,

and for the pleasant morning light;

for rest and food and loving care,

and all that makes the world so fair.

Help us to do the things we should,

to be to others kind and good;

in all we do, in work or play,

to grow more loving every day.

This article was orginally reported by
Pastor Elizabeth Bier

Rev. Elizabeth Bier is the pastor of ONE in Christ Parish, a three-point parish in Greenwood, Longwood, and Withee. She is ordained with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and has served the ONE in Christ Parish since February of 2019.