A man called Isaac grows and lives in a small village. He works hard on his farm, rising with the sun and tending the garden God gave him, tilling the rich brown earth. Rains come and water the green growth and plumps the ripening fruit. Life is good.
Next door lives his great friend Joseph. In the evenings they sit in the light of the harvest moon and share their hopes and dreams. They drink toasts to the future and laugh and joke and dream.
God looked upon them and smiled.
One day, Joseph inherits money from a long lost relative- just enough to buy a cow. And he walks it home up the hill and the evening light shines on its hide like velvet. He runs over to Isaac and invites him over to see the cow in its green pasture, solid and big and bountiful. “Look…” he says, “Look what God has brought to us- now we can have milk in the mornings- butter, cheese!”
But the cow became a shadow between Isaac and Joseph.
And one day, God visited Isaac and asked him what was wrong. Isaac said “It is the cow Lord- it has made Joseph into someone else. He used to be my friend.”
And God was sad.
“Isaac,” he said quietly, “If I can do anything for you- if I can grant you a wish, what would it be?”
Isaac looked up at God with cunning eyes.
“Kill the cow” he said.
As followers of Jesus, it is our calling, our aspiration, our tranforming power, and the very characteristic of the children of the living God.
Oh… and it can be hard.
Because real community implies closeness to those around us. It suggests relationships that go beyond the surface into the deep, undefended vulnerable parts of us.
And in doing this we are beautiful- as we serve and support, as we learn to love and let go our selfish stuff for the sake of the beautiful other. As we break bread and share wine.
But in doing this- we also are ugly- as we compete and squabble, as we dominate and oppress in the small things of a day, as we take in information and filter it through a screen of past hurts. As we nurse wounds and pick at the stitches until they burst and bleed on our communal table.
What was Jesus thinking of when he threw together his own band of disputing disciples? When he cautioned them that others will know that they are his followers by the love they had for one another?
Perhaps, just perhaps if we survive the examination of the stuff that we hide most carefully from the other- and we do not run away to build our own ego’s from bricks formed out of the manifest failings of our perceived inquisitors…
Perhaps then we might find that community is possible.
Because we Christians live in the overlap of what life is, and what we long for it to become.