Tuesday in the Second Week of Easter at Mississippi Abbey

“The community was of one heart and mind…they had everything in common.” “So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Given the self-centeredness of Original Sin, this freedom from the bondage of self is truly as strange as where the wind comes from and where it goes. With Nicodemus we wonder, “How can this happen?”

“How” it happens is by the power of the Spirit. “Where” it happens is important for us. It happens in community. That’s where the two great love commandments are kept. That is where conscience of membership is developed. Character is formed by a story and a community that lives out that story. The story is engaging and the community is compatible; they are the means. But the Spirit is the power that makes it happen.

A community like this is not a mere herd like sports fans; it is not (nor should it be) a “good ol’ boys” club, run on personalities rather than principles.  Like the community described in Acts, it is united by a common feeling, a common love for what it is centered upon. An image for it is a wagon wheel. The spokes are the members. They are closest together when they are at the center. When they move away from the center toward the rim, they become farther apart. Personalities are put before principles; the private good comes before the common good; self-needs come before the story that unites the community

It is the Spirit that gives the power to put our principles before one’s own personality; to stay gathered around the center. The Spirit, though, must be co-experienced, i.e. experienced with one another. If that co-experience is not recognized and preferred as criteria for membership, then some will be singled-out and marginalized. A conscience of membership for the marginalized will become painful and eventually lost. This will affect the whole community because they will be relying on personal rationalization rather than the common Spirit, the Holy Spirit. It is shared experiencing that unites a community. Our sense of call before we entered, our prayer together, our eating together are shared experiences. It is important –it makes a difference- to take them seriously. The singular shared experience that makes us a Christian community is looking at the Son of Man when He is lifted up…and…believing.