I have had many great reminders this week about the importance of community in the life of a Christian. Defining community has been a difficult task for the lexicographer and sociologist, with over a hundred definitions having been put forth over the last fifty years. However, a common idea for all of them has been a group of interacting people who share common values, needs, or beliefs. Traditionally, these groups of people were defined geographically as well, but with the advent of the Internet and social networking, this is not always the case today.

As we worship God in daily life, we have the opportunity to do so personally and vertically (between ourselves and God), as well as corporately and horizontally (between ourselves and others). Jesus modeled this for us. In addition to the times that Jesus spent alone worshiping and praying to the Father, the Gospels record Jesus surrounding Himself with 12 other men and living in community with them for three years. He attended community functions (weddings, feasts, funerals), worshipped and taught in synagogues, and even interacted with people of other nationalities (Romans, Samaritans, Phoenicians).

I meet with a small group from my church weekly. With some people on vacation this summer, we stopped meeting for a few weeks this month. Monday came and went this week and something was missing from my routine as a result. However, God is faithful and provided other opportunities for me. I had lunch with a friend that I haven’t seen in almost a year and got to reconnect and share our faith experiences over the last 12 months. I also had dinner with an out-of-state friend that I haven’t seen for 15 years. Although a lot of time had passed, our previous connections through our shared love of music, Jesus, and teaching created a lasting bond that made it easy to pick up in our relationship where he had left off and even strengthen the friendship that we have shared over so many years. Tomorrow, a friend that I haven’t seen for at least twenty years is getting baptized at the ripe old age of 40-something.  The rites and rituals of the Church can become formulaic and dusty if we let them, but they exist to remind us of the journey we share with the saints who have gone before us and to connect us to each other. Worship can be done privately but fellowship cannot.

As the late Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in his classic work on community, Life Together:

“Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”