Redemption in Community
During one special weekend, two big events on my calendar converged. Sunday was the Christian holiday of Pentecost, and the night of the final episode of my favorite TV show, “Lost.” Perhaps because both of them fell on the same day, I thought a lot about what they had in common, and was surprised by how much I found. The account of Pentecost, as it is told in the biblical book of Acts, is a story of understanding brought about by the Spirit of God, and also by togetherness. In Acts 2:1, we read, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” These were the disciples of Jesus, gathered together soon after his ascension to heaven. They had only recently experienced the loss of their teacher and leader. It would have been easy for them to go their separate ways, try to return to the lives they had before they met him. As the story goes on, they experience something like a strong wind and tongues of fire resting on each of them, and the writer tells us that this is a manifestation of the Spirit of God. The city of Jerusalem, where they were gathered, was filled on this festival day with people from all over the Roman world, and miraculously, each one in this diverse group of people heard the disciples speaking in his or her own language. They were able to understand a message of good news such as they had never heard before. It was a miracle of God, but one that would not have been possible without the smaller miracle of the disciples gathering together, united in one place.
This theme of community is also important to the show “Lost.” Without giving too much away for those unfamiliar with the show, it is the story of a group of strangers who survive a plane crash on a mysterious island far from home. During their first days on the island, tensions are high and emotions heightened because of the trauma they have survived. Soon they are arguing, even physically fighting with one another. A young doctor, Jack Shephard, takes a leadership role in the group, organizing them and doing his best to unify them, telling them, “If we can’t live together, we’re going to die alone.” Throughout the six seasons of the series, “Live together, die alone,” was a phrase sometimes spoken by one of the castaways, often illustrated by the story. Over time, these strangers became a community, and grew to understand that they needed one another for survival as well as for redemption. What they learned from each other and about themselves through their shared struggles ultimately made them better people. They could not have done it alone.
We will most likely never have the kind of extraordinary and mysterious experiences that the disciples in Acts or the castaways of “Lost” had. However, each of us gets many chances to build community around us. How is your life different today because of your connections with family, friends, coworkers, patients, clients, neighbors, other members of your place of worship? Through all of these lives that touch ours, God has things to teach us and things for us to teach one another. When we allow ourselves to be drawn into community, to be “all together in one place” on an emotional and spiritual level, God may just do something wonderful in our midst.
God, protect us from our individualist, isolationist tendencies. Remind us of our need for each other and for you. Help us to work through our differences and unite us in the symbiosis of community. Amen.-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent