Monday, September 27, 2010

unintentional communities

"'the hasidic movement...teaches that the true meaning of love of one's neighbor is not that it is a command from god which we are to fulfill, but that through it and in it we meet is not just written, "love thy neighbor as thyself," as though the sentence ended there, but it goes on. "love thy neighbor as thyself, I am the lord"...the grammatical construction of the original text shows quite clearly that the meaning is: you shall deal lovingly with your neighbor, that is, with everyone you meet along life's road, and you shall deal with him as with one equal to yourself. the second part, however, adds, "I am the lord..." the hasidic interpretation, "you think I am far away from you, but in your love for your neighbor you will find me; not in his love for you, but in yours for him." he who loves brings god and the world together.'

"[martin] buber finds god in the loving of the lover.

"jesus taught a similar understanding of how authentic religious practice provides a direct path to the salvific experience of god and god's grace. god is met in the authentic and compassionate encounter with the other. he finds god in the person of the one who is being loved...these examples from buber and [matthew 25:34-40]...both understand that it is in relationship that we evoke god's presence and render it happens in community. that message sounds familiar and almost comfortable.

"there is a twist to the message, though, revealed in the explications by jesus and the hasidim. the kind of community in which that happens is not what we expect. we are not invited to find god in the presence of those whose thoughts we already know, whose worldviews we understand, whose expectations confirm our own. we are invited instead to find god in the enounter with those who are distinctly different from us.

"these different ones are those whose thoughts, feelings, expectations, and ideas are difficult to understand. often they are so different that we find it difficult to accept the reality of the difference...we find it easier to make attributions about these unknown others, keeping ourselves safely at a distance, thus avoiding the risk of actual encounter. we are not where they are, and we do not know what they know...

"jesus [and the hasidim are] telling us that when we make contact with the one who is different, the one whose world is not like ours, we begin to allow god into our lives. when we let in the one whose assumptions surprise us, whose judgments conflict with ours, whose worldview disquiets us, and when we stop pretending that the differences aren't real, we have crossed the threshold into religious practice. it is in the practice of that kind of encounter that we begin weaving the strands of authentic spiritual community."

--from learning while leading: increasing your effectiveness in ministry by anita farber-robertson (emphasis mine)

despite however hard we try we don't choose our community, only the members of it with whom we associate. to experience the holy we need to open ourselves to discomfort, embarrassment, anger, and maybe the potential to be harmed.

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