The Grace of Community

This week, like many in the past several months, has been filled with people. All good people, people whose company I enjoy and benefit from. But apart from a brief period of solitude at a monastery yesterday and time working alone this morning, my schedule has been filled with people.

Three years ago, the charge given to me at my ordination was to seek solitude. For a leader in the Church, the spiritual discipline of solitude provides space to hear God’s voice apart from all the others which clamor for our attention. And weary as I’ve felt recently, I’ve been craving solitude.

But as I prepared today for this week’s Sunday school class for Upper Room, I came across a convicting passage in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together:

“It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. 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.”

It is grace, nothing but grace, that I’ve been given Eileen for a wife, who is infinitely patient and loving with me. It is grace that I will spend two hours this afternoon in deep fellowship and prayer with my co-pastor Mike and that we share the unique community of The Upper Room as a church family. It is grace, nothing but grace, that when I was a socially awkward freshman at CU lacking self-confidence, the community of The Annex and First Pres Boulder became a family for me, equipped me to lead Bible studies and sent me on mission trips through which I heard God’s call to ministry. It is grace that at Pittsburgh Seminary, I was given a community with whom to learn and worship. It is by grace that God has given me the fellowship and inspiration to holiness which we have in The House of St. Michael. And it is by grace that I’ve been given a job, a community, and a ministry at the 61C Cafe. Thanks be to God.

I still need my solitude, but I am deeply grateful today for the grace of community.

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