Daily Reflection 3/18/2020
Preston Clegg

 Let’s begin with an exercise.  Imagine with me a perfect, ideal church.  What do you see?  Your favorite music?  8 minute sermons?  No congregational responsibilities?  Now…imagine with me a perfect family.  What do you see?  Imagine with me a perfect group of friends.  What do you see?

 Many of us long to be included in communities that uphold our highest virtues and embody our highest values.  We want to be a part of families that serve as icons of love, patience, and joy.  We want friends who always know how to love us well and be there for us.  This idealism is good and right.  We should all be summoning our churches, families, and friends to the high ground of their best selves, even as we ensure that we are striving for the same.  If a group is worth being a part of, it’s worth doing well.  When churches, families, and friends become stuck in mediocrity, love demands we call them (and us) to account.

 However, at times, I worry that this idealism works against us.  True idealism creates realities that only exist in our mind, so that we become more attached to the fiction in our mind than the reality before us at any given moment.  We become intolerant of any shortcoming in others, while being blind to our own.  Perfectionism prompts us all to imagine communities that don’t exist, rather than join communities that do.  I can’t help but wonder if this sentiment isn’t behind much of the skepticism many people have about church today.  The “is” is so disappointing after living in the “should be” of one’s imagination.

 Of course, the real appeal of idealism is that it keeps me from intertwining myself with anything real.  I’m so busy reforming the church, I don’t really invest in a real one.  I’m so busy trying to change my family, I have little gratitude for the one I have.  I’m so busy looking for perfect friends, I’m blind to the real ones I already have.  Idealism plants its feet on the finish line and pulls people towards it, while realism plants its feet with real people and walks with them towards it.  After all, if you can’t love what is, what should be has no hope of ever being born. 

 So, I’d like to finish with one more exercise.  Imagine with me an actual church, like what you would see at 2BC on any given Sunday.  See the faces.  See the people, flaws and all.  See the faces of your very real family.  Feel the love.  See the faces of your very real friends, who’ve stood with you through good and bad.  Give thanks for friends like that.  

 In these days of separation, I’ve been reflecting a great deal on what makes community real and good and Christian.  Maybe number one on the list is that it exists at all.  People gather together, even when we’re not supposed to.  We were created for each other.  We have this innate desire to be together.  This is our gift from God.  This is our task before God.

 Below is a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s seminal book, Life Together.  Let this inform our prayer today- which might be one of gratitude, help, and confession altogether.

 Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial. God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idolized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands set up by their own law, and judge one another and God accordingly. It is not we who build. Christ builds the church. Whoever is mindful to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it, for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess, he builds. We must proclaim, he builds. We must pray to him, and he will build. We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are the times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that the times which from a human point are great times for the church are times when it’s pulled down. It is a great comfort which Jesus gives to his church. You confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is not your providence. Do what is given to you, and do it well, and you will have done enough…. Live together in the forgiveness of your sins. Forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.

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