A majestic cathedral in Northern Europe was known for its magnificent organ. Unlike the electric organs of today, these organs depended on a man who would pump by hand the air needed for the organ to produce its great sound.
A guest organist was scheduled to play for the 4 PM recital featuring the works of Mozart and Mendelssohn. The brilliant guest organist bowed before the crowd and said, “For my first selection I will play a piece by Mozart.” He sat at the organ and began to press the keys but absolutely no sound came out. He attempted a second time; but again, to no avail. This time, very aggravated, he said loudly, “For my first selection I will play a piece by Mozart.” He returned to the keyboard, but still no sound. Suddenly he heard a voice from behind the organ, “If you don’t say ‘we,’ I ain’t gonna pump!” The organist smiled and said, “For OUR first selection WE will play a piece from Mozart.” The great music was heard by all.
The church of Jesus Christ always plays it best music when we realize “we” and not “I.” Perhaps this is why Jesus put a table – the Lord’s Table – at the center of our faith.
But it’s true: we need each other! It not only takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to grow a strong faith community. Parker Palmer, one of my favorite authors, understands the importance of community, saying: “Whether we know it or not, like it or not, honor it or not, we are embedded in community. Whether we think of ourselves as biological creatures or spiritual beings or both, the truth remains: we were created in and for a complex ecology of relatedness, and without it we wither and die. This simple fact has critical implications: community is not a goal to be achieved but a gift to be received.” (Parker, Thirteen Ways of Looking at Community, 1998).
How do you like that…void of community – God’s special gift – we die! It eludes us eternally. Not only does community maintain life, it is also the source of our healing: physical, emotional, and spiritual. I think of the Lakota people and their practice of the “inner circle” (“hocokah”) comes to mind. Originally formed around the elders of the community, this practice promoted healing, change, and intense communal support. As psychiatrist Lewis Mehl-Madrona describes the practice, “We can make community, create community art, create community ceremony and dance and ritual and music for our healing, even if faced with the lack of blueprints for how to do this. We can dance. We can keep rhythm. No other primate from capuchin monkeys to non-human apes can keep rhythm. This is uniquely human, and we must use it to our full advantage to entrain ourselves to coherence with each other for maximal healing and transformation (Mehl-Madrona, Healing the Mind through the Power of Story, 2010).”
If I am hearing the good doctor correctly, he is telling us we need each other – and to just do it! Don’t worry about doing it “correctly,” just be and stay in community! I am so very thankful for our tribe, sometimes called the First Christian Church, as we worship, work, and play together. Truly, a genuine and authentic gift of community! As St. Paul reminded the faith community in Philippi, “I thank God upon every remembrance of you.” As always, I look forward to dancing and being in community with you on Sunday. Glad to be your (transitional) pastor.