another two years on

For some reason this morning I started remembering thoughts of hope I had for this community a while back. So I looked back through my journal (which is one of the main things journals are for) and was shocked to discover that I had written about those signs of hope almost two years ago.

So much has happened since then. Now I see those hopes as pretty naive, though I think there's still something important to hold onto there.

My thought then was that the community was moving in a hopeful direction, in three ways that seemed crucial for vibrant, Christ-inspired life together, for "kingdom of God" life. Shifting the basis for community away from some kind of conceptual or constitutional framework, and towards a friendship-basis, people held together and identified by their personal relationships with one another. Shifting away from a subsistence or survival mode in community life and work, and towards a giving or generosity mode. And shifting the church away from politics and communal decision-making, towards an independent prophetic voice that God can use to speak to us more clearly.

There have been significant changes over the past two years, both in leadership and structure. But the inability of those changes to significantly transform community life, or move it in the directions that seem to me crucial for kingdom of God life together, have shaken my hopes. As I wrote a couple weeks ago, it seems that an independent prophetic voice cannot be expected from a church tied into the communal model (or any religious/political mash-up). And even with new leadership and a sustained push for a new direction here, what has resulted is primarily just a new constitution. More emphasis on the relationship-on-paper. The need for unity being addressed by defining and clarifying conceptually, rather than the realization that what is needed—real, loving human relationship—is not something that can be defined or grasped. And it doesn't exist on paper.

I don't see the shift towards generosity on the horizon anymore, either. But that may be a matter of interpretation, and I'm open to being surprised. This shift, though, really requires God's intervention and support, and when we're still relying on our council meetings and constitutions, I don't see God giving much support to that.

What I am still hopeful about is the realization that any of us can make these crucial shifts in our own lives even if the community around us does not. The group may identify itself and its members on paper, but we don't have to accept that. Our community can still be friendship-based, relationship-focused (and I'm personally seeing more opportunity for that at the moment). And we don't have to let church for us be "the church of the current administration." The church exists where the independent, prophetic voice of the Spirit is heard. Look for it, find it, be it. (Some experiments in that direction have borne satisfying fruit lately, too.)

And when we are seeking that, then we can count on God to support us as we focus on giving, rather than scrabbling for survival.

I suppose the lesson of these last couple years should take me back to all Jesus said about living "in the world." Don't expect the society around you to live by God's ways, or make it easy for you. Don't place your hope there. The life of the kingdom of God never was, and never can be, offered by a humanly instituted society (or intentional community). But it was and is real. Offered by Jesus to those who will follow him.