I always liked the old 80s sit-com, "Cheers." More for the idea than the long running gags that seem to sustain 30 minute comedies. Sure, Sam and Diane are sort-of together. Carla is the tough waitress. Everybody says "hey, Norm" when he walks in...and he always walks in... What I liked about the show was the concept that there really can be a "place where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came." I found that a couple of days ago. Not in a bar, but in a convention center in Wildwood, NJ amongst a bunch of Episcopalians. Go figure! ;)
Christian community should be like that all the time. It isn't. Just read the first and second letters of Paul to the Corinthians. Christian communities sometimes need to remember that they are just that, communities modeled on the way Christ calls upon us to be. For Episcopalians, that means living out the practices of our Baptismal Covenant. It means keeping up with being together, learning together, getting along and committing to reconciliation as an ongoing expression of love to and for each other. It also means being aware of a world outside of our small assemblies that yearns for peace, grace and justice; and that we are called on to give that experience of the peace of Christ to all we meet "out there."
So, for me, for a moment on Friday that lasted a good, long, welcomed while had that sense of being in a place where "everybody knew my name, and are always glad" that I was there. At the annual convention for the Diocese of NJ, I had a chance to sit with the delegation of the church I will be serving as interim rector (part-time for a while, then full-time later), to greet old friends from my days serving St. Andrew's, New Providence and to meet new colleagues in Christ. I heard a stirring and challenging annual address from the Bishop and the keynote talk was on what it meant for Christ-followers to come to the awareness that we are ALL related to each other.
For one brief moment, as it is in this life, I saw what heaven must feel like all the time. There is a sense of community that puts you in a place of being relaxed and joyful that you just ARE. There is an awareness that you are in a place where the good news is shared and that people are committed to serve its proclamation.
I know that sounds like Shangri-la, but you know what? That is something that we all really long for in the fullest sense of the world. Life should have those moments when there is a sense of just belonging in a peace-filled place of rest.
I know that peace in my home. I know that peace among close friends. The glory of being a community in Christ is that we can find that place of rest amongst people we don't even quite know yet-but whom we will in faith before too long.
So, in the midst of a snowstorm on this east-coast Monday morning when I am far from spouse, home and hearth my heart is in fact quite warmed. Christ is the bridge builder. Christ is the one who makes crooked paths straight. Christ reminds us that no matter how far we travel into the different...the one who was, who is and who is to come will bring unity to all.