A few posts back I was celebrating a friend's baby shower when I wrote these words, "What do people do ~ where do people find connections ~ when they are not part of a community of faith?" These words came back to me when I was finishing up Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship a couple days ago. In one of the final chapters Bonhoeffer writes about the "Visible Community." I love the first line, "The Body of Christ takes up space on earth."
In the next chapter entitled "The Saints" Bonhoeffer discusses the idea of sanctification as a personal matter as opposed to the work of the community. "If we regard sanctification as a purely personal matter which has nothing whatever to do with public life and the visible line of demarcation between the Church and the world, we shall land ourselves inevitably into a confusion between the pious wishes of the religious flesh and the sanctification of the Church which is accomplished in the death of Christ through the seal of God."
I truly believe in my heart (and not just because I am a pastor) that one cannot be a Christian without being part of a community of faith. Christ's body does take up space on earth. It is where we work out our salvation, share the sacraments, receive and give the means of grace, and practice living more and more like Christ. It is also where we are sent from to go into the world as Christ's hands and feet (and ears and hearts and mouths). It is in community that we are reminded we are sinners, celebrate our forgiveness and share with each other the signs of Christ's peace. None of these things can be done in isolation.
That is not to say that it is easy to be in community. It may be a lot more pleasant to sit at home in the air-conditioning watching a worship service on TV and not have to deal with the lady behind you singing off key or the kid in front of you who won't settle down or being asked to serve (again) on the Administrative Board. But isn't that what it is all about? An imperfect community going on to perfection. The community ~ visible ~ taking up space ~ right before our eyes.