By Kristi Bubb

At the beginning of each Council meeting one member of Council leads the group in a devotion as a moment to pause and center ourselves in God’s word before focusing on the agenda for the evening. These devotions are open ended in both structure and topic and left up to each Council member to share however the spirit may move them. The following is the devotion Kristi Bubb shared at the beginning of the September Council meeting.

Community is…

As the Council is getting ready to head off on retreat this weekend, I was thinking about community building and “What does it mean to be a community?” In my search for devotionals on the theme of community I ran across a whole series of 30+ devotions that started off with the phrase “Community is…”. The list included things like:

  • Community Is . . . Having a Common Goal,
  • Community Is . . . Encouragement,
  • Community Is . . . Role Modeling, and
  • Community Is . . . Being and Doing Together.

Out of the list I picked out a few phrases that spoke to me to share with the group tonight. The first phrase that jumped out at me was:

Community Is . . . the Little Things

1 Kings 19:11–13

He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have really missed gathering with our church community during these past 18 months. I have thought several times throughout the pandemic how odd this time is in the history of the world. Under almost any other type of crisis; war, natural disaster, terrorist attacks, or economic depressions, gathering as a Christian community would be at the center of where we could find strength during tough times to worship, to share a meal, or to provide support for one another. And physically gathering as a community is the very thing we have been unable to do or at least restricted in how much we can safely do. However, that doesn’t mean that the church community has been absent during all these months of quarantine…..far from it….. it’s just been different.

We are all probably guilty of focusing our attention on God’s presence in the powerful earthquake moments of our lives and forget to look for God in the everyday moments. Our God, who is capable of great things and can dramatically transform the world, also takes the time to simply just be with us in the quiet whisper moments of our life when we are weak, alone, and feel that nothing matters…. like many of us perhaps felt during the lockdown.

A church community is similar. It isn’t just present in the big and life-changing moments like the youth gathering or well-organized retreats. It isn’t just present in huge groups gathered on Sunday mornings at church or massive volunteer events. It is present in the small moments of life too often showing up when we aren’t even looking for it, like the Lenten activity bags that just appeared on our doorstep as we prepared for that first Easter in lockdown. It was there in the two-minute interactions we shared during drive thru communion, or the sidewalk art drawn by the youth simply to brighten people’s day, or the brief phone conversations shared during the congregation check in calls amid the lockdown. If we are always measuring the health of the church community by the big events and large numbers, we are going to miss seeing all the small moments that add up to God’s community all around us and ever present with us. Community is….the little things.

Another phrase that caught my eye was

Community Is . . . Teamwork

1 Corinthians chapter 12 talks about the different kinds of spiritual gifts and how God is the source of them all and that although we may perform different kinds of service, we all serve the same Lord. It acknowledges that God may work in different ways, but it’s the same God who works in all of us. Verses 12-28 pulls it all together with the example that just as a body is one whole it has many parts, hands, feet, ears, eyes, each with their own job. It’s the sum of these many parts working together that form one body and it is the same with the body of Christ. We each have an important role to play in the one body of Christ in our church community and the world.

Being a child of the 1980s I can’t read this passage without chuckling to myself and thinking about Voltron from the Transformers era of 80s cartoons. For those of you that don’t remember, Voltron was the combination of five different lion robots that each brought their unique skills and weapons that would click together and create one giant all powerful robot Voltron to save the world. A quick google search of 1st Corinthians and the Voltron effect shows that I am not the only who has made this connection and there are lots of “interesting” commentaries on what Paul was saying to the Corinthians and the similarities with Voltron.

Since I’ve joined Council, I’ve been completely amazed by all the people that work so hard behind the scenes to make things happen in our church community. It’s so easy to sit in the pews on Sunday and not think about all the things that need to happen in order for worship to occur on a given Sunday. From the pencils in the pews, to the flowers on the altar, to the sound system allowing us to hear the word of God, to the music offered up during the service, it’s just like 1 Corinthians says, there are many moving parts made up of people and gifts, but they all form one body to do God’s work. We are so blessed in our community with a diversity of gifts among our congregation to help create this living and breathing church of Emmanuel that – even in a pandemic lockdown – accomplished so much. Each of us on this call tonight brings a special strength to our Council community and it’s our job to figure out how we can best work together to create our Voltron to do God’s work and serve Emmanuel in the coming year. I have no doubt that as we build relationships in the months ahead, we will figure out new ways to work together as a team and grow our community as a Council and the broader church. Community Is . . . teamwork.

The last phrase that really resonated with me was

Community Is . . . Home

Home is where you feel safe. Home is where you feel that you matter. Home is where you feel like you can be yourself, and home is where you feel like you belong. I feel at home in our church community at Emmanuel and I hope that others on this call do too. My hope is that we as Emmanuel will continue to grow in ways that help others feel at home with us.

Today’s society is so broken and focused on defining and separating us from the “others” along political, socioeconomic, sexual, racial, and religious divides. In our comfort zones of sameness, it is far too easy to forget that we are all God’s children and loved equally. A community isn’t about always gathering with same kinds of people who think, look, and talk look like you. It’s about having a place where you are embraced for your similarities and your differences that make you who you are as a child of God. A community is a place of refuge where you can return after facing the harsh world and know with conviction that you will be welcomed, encouraged, and loved no matter where your life’s journey has taken you. As we work together, befriend one another, and spend time getting to know each other, we are more likely to see this big community that God has given us and less of the divisions between us, and hopefully help others feel a little bit more at home with us. Community Is . . . Home.

So, as we get ready to leave on our retreat this weekend for some community building and planning for the year to come to as a Council, I’ll leave you with two final questions to ponder on your own:

  • How do you finish the phrase Community is… ? and
  • What ways can we nurture that at Emmanuel this year?