Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis
“God did not make this person as I would have made him . . . We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community
For as long as people have gathered to be the church, they have had to negotiate their differences and make room for others. Our culture and economics have conditioned us to move through the world as individuals, independent and self-reliant central units of concern, free to be unconstrained by the state or our social group. We have been conditioned to value individualism so highly that we rarely see how it threatens another value we hold—covenant, the binding of ourselves together in community despite our differences. Choosing to be in community when the world expects otherwise is a sign of grace. The Gospels portray Jesus’ encounter with his disciples and strangers as interruptions of grace, a providential gathering of people in covenant as part of the reign of God.
The theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer acknowledged the tensions inherent when people show up in our communities with claims and petitions because “God did not make this person as I would have made him.” But to be beloved community means to love one another, bear each other’s burdens, and maintain fellowship. In our beloved community, we confronted competing claims and petitions explicitly about displaying two beloved embroideries. Our disagreement over these precious treasures is painful, and many members feel a profound, piercing loss. Our life together compels us to hold grief and loss as one body, and our task is to heal our bond and maintain our fellowship.
The world does not expect us to heal or come together. The privileging of unfettered choice and self-sufficient individualism forecast that the easier option is to forego community. But I believe in and choose beloved community. I believe in and choose Plymouth Church. Ours is a beloved community marked by generous hospitality and giving and receiving love that counters the empire’s emphasis on contention and polarization. While it hurts to be at odds with one another, polarization is not our story nor the whole of who and what we are. We are a unique revelation of God’s presence and movement in the world, with each of us being interruptions of grace in the life of Plymouth. The world is hurting so much that people want to know where God is. People want to see signs of love, good, peace, of change. Despite all that we have been through, I pray we remember our covenant and who and whose we are. I pray we live out love, good, peace, and change so God may be revealed to the world. May it be so.