31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
January 28, 2024
Luke 5:1-11, 10:25-28
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
(Theme song to Lone Ranger: William Tell Overture) Throughout the countryside, he traveled, sharing the good news of God’s love. From town to town he went, teaching, healing, sharing. Sometimes by foot, sometimes by boat, sometimes on a mountain, sometimes on a plain. Hi Ho Spirit Away. He was the Lone Savior.
It’s a comical image. Jesus riding throughout Galilee as a masked man, overcoming injustice wherever he went. Actually, that part is not so comical because Jesus did work for justice wherever he went. The comical part though is that he was never alone.
Actually, the Lone Ranger was never alone either. He was actually the ‘alone’ ranger. After the five other members of his Texas Ranger posse were killed in an ambush, Tonto named him the lone ranger. And even then he was rarely without a sidekick in his adventures.
Could the Lone Ranger have gone it alone? Maybe, but he knew that life is better with a partner.
The same is true of God and Jesus. God could definitely do it all alone. After all, God is God – the Creator of the Universe, the Almighty One, our God Most High. However, from the very beginning of creation, God has been in relationship, in community with Jesus and with the Holy Spirit. Throughout the gospels, we see how Jesus is in communion with God, setting aside moments of prayer to connect with God, being open to God’s Holy Spirit directing his words and actions.
Jesus knew from God that life is better with a partner, better in community. So even though Jesus could have taught and healed and shared the good news of God’s love all on his own, Jesus continuously gathered people in.
In the first passage we heard from the gospel of Luke today, Jesus invites Simon Peter, James, and John to join him in ministry. These three men will witness Jesus’ transfiguration. These three men will play important roles in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection; however these three men are not Jesus’ only partners in ministry.
There are nine others who join them in being called the twelve disciples; and yet, the circle of Jesus’ community is wider even than that. It includes other men and plenty of women that travel with Jesus throughout Galilee.
And still Jesus’ community is bigger than that. Zacheaus. Nicodemus. Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus. Everywhere Jesus goes, he gathers more and more people into relationship.
When Jesus affirms that the two most important commandments are to love God, to be in relationship with God, and to love others, to be in community with others, these aren’t just words to Jesus. Jesus lives this. He is not a lone savior. Jesus is a savior who is constantly connecting with God and with others and creating connections between his followers.
Community is an essential way we follow Jesus Christ. Perhaps you know this scripture passage from the gospel of Matthew “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20). Or maybe Christian community invites you to think about Paul’s words to the Corinthians, how being a Christian is like being a part of the body. We need each other. We cannot go it alone.
We need each other. We cannot go it alone.
Our church, as well as many other churches, believes in the ‘ministry of all believers’. Each one of us, as we walk with Jesus, has our own ministry in this world. And with all of our different gifts, we fit together like a well-crafted puzzle.
Here at the First Congregational Church, I am ever so grateful for our auditors who every year use their talents to make sure we are being good fiduciaries of the money given to the church. I am grateful for those who deal with snowplow companies and underground oil tanks that must come out now, according to the state of Connecticut. I am thankful for those who play bells and guitar and flute and sing. And I am especially thankful for those who cook and bake and create events like Game Night and the lunch to follow worship today, bringing us together in relationship, in community.
It’s not just for ministry that we need each other. It is also for worship and prayer, for hearing God’s still speaking voice, for nurturing our Christian faith journeys, and growing closer to God.
When our community was able to gather again in 2021, after almost a year of me being almost alone in this Sanctuary, I cried when we said the Lord’s prayer together. It is powerful to worship together. It is powerful to pray together.
For many of us, community is a or even the reason why we follow Jesus and come to church. We don’t want to go through this life as a lone ranger. We know it’s not good for our bodies, for our minds, or for our spirits. God did not make us to be alone. We need each other.
We need each other to live.
The expert in the law’s question isn’t about scripture or commandments. His question is about life – “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). Jesus invites him to examine scripture and the law, and the man answers, “love God and love your neighbor”. To which Jesus’ response is “do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:28).
Do this and you will live. Love God and love your neighbor and you will live. Be in connection with God and in community with others and you will live.
Community not only makes our lives better. Community is life. Life for us as individuals and followers of Christ; life for those of other faiths; life for the world.
The other day, I watched a webinar by Gretta Vosper, a minister in the United Church of Canada. Her talk was about how the Church has long had a positive impact on society because we create communities and community.
Within every church community, there are lots of smaller communities. For example, Men’s Fellowship, Leadership Board, Bible study, Youth Group, Bell Choir. Each of these groups is a community, and each of these communities overlap. Members of Adult Choir attend All Ages Game Night. Those who make meals for St. Vincent DePaul or Meals for Neighbors are also on the Kitchen Renovation ministry group.
As all of these communities overlap, they create a thick, resilient web of care, supporting and nurturing all who are connected. And that web of care doesn’t stop with the doors of the church. That web of support, nurture, and care goes out into the wider community, creating more and more connections.
Oh, you need help doing your taxes. I know someone who volunteers with VITA, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. My goodness, your situation sounds overwhelming. I’ll ask the prayer group to get right on it, asking God to surround you with love. You are worrying about how to get your kids Christmas presents? Well, our church works with Bristol’s Family Resource Center, and I’ll get you their information. Your family made up care kits for the homeless but you don’t know where to share them? Our church partners with Agape House and Brian’s Angels and here’s how you can be in touch.
Relationships, community, a web of care, a thick, resilient web of care makes a difference in our lives. It makes a difference to have people show up for you. Show up for you when you are having surgery, when you are experiencing a loss, when you are celebrating a wedding, new baby, or birthday. It makes a difference to have relationships, to have partners, to have a community.
Not that community is easy. Not that relationships are always harmonious or joyous; however the benefits of community far outweigh the challenges. Jesus teaches us that. Jesus shows us that just as God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit do not go it alone, neither are we meant to be lone rangers. We are meant for community.
Through community, we draw closer to God. Through community, we create webs of care, safety nets for all. Through community, we faithfully follow Jesus and discover life in a new way. Life that is vibrant, hope-filled, joyous, as we walk this journey together.