True Community

Monday, February 18, 2013 — Week of Lent 1 (Year One)

Martin Luther, Theologian, 1546

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 952)

Psalms 41, 52 (morning) // 44 (evening)

Deuteronomy 8:11-20

Hebrews 2:11-18

John 2:1-12

Through Moses’ voice, the book of Deuteronomy reminds us that all things come of God, and that we are all in this together, as a community of God’s people. God took the people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, where they were oppressed by the engines of power, productivity, and wealth. The Egyptian overlords continued to force the Hebrews to produce more and more with less and less. Overlords like increased productivity. Too rarely, however, do they share the increased income proportionally with the workers who actually do the production.

In one sense the Exodus was a labor movement. Moses’ first function on behalf of God was to represent the people in collective bargaining with the government, speaking for labor to management.

God wants the people out of Egypt. God wants us to escape from the clutches of bondage to production and wealth and power. With signs and wonders God rescued the people from Egypt and took them into the wilderness where God could create something different — community.

God created a community where people were responsible for one another and were just in their dealings. Where all would have their basic needs met — their daily bread, their manna. Where the vulnerable — the widow, orphan and alien — would be cared for. No more would rank individualism allow for the oppression of some for the sake of the elevation of others. Debts were to be canceled every seven years; property was to be redistributed equally every fifty years. God’s community was to be a community of equals before God, with strong regulation — statutes and commandments — that limited the liberty of those who might oppress others with their power, violence or wealth.

God knows the temptation of power and wealth. God reminded them that all things are gifts from the divine hand. God reminded them that they are a people under God, a community with responsibility for looking out for the welfare of each other. They are not to go back to the other gods, the gods of Egypt, and the other gods of greed and power and oppression.

When they are wealthy and comfortable again, they are not to think, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth,” and then revert to the oppressive patterns of Egypt. No more Egyptian economics! They are to be a covenant people under God, a holy community, abiding by the instructions that God had given them for taking care of one another. Jesus summarized the laws of this covenant people — Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.

The invitation is for us to be a transformed community enjoying abundant life extended to all. We are to escape the bondage of Egyptian economics and enter the promised land of milk and honey.

The gospel of John gives us one of the signs of this new community. It is a community where water is turned to wine for the joy and celebration of everyone. The first sign that John offers as the sign of Jesus’ new community is the miracle of the wine at the wedding feast.

A wedding is a community celebration, a place where a new family is added to the community. This new family is not just another means of production, but a neighbor, with the hoped for promise of future fecundity to bless the whole community. Therefore the community gathers to give them their new identity within the whole. And we are to rejoice. We rejoice with abundance and celebration. Jesus’ blessing upon the feast is to turn thin, pale water into rich, fulsome wine. Wine that makes hearts glad and lessens our burdens and worries. Wine that is to be shared in community, to create a festival of joy.

Later, Jesus will give his own life and his life’s blood as the wine which creates joy and community in the sacrament of communion. In that sacred meal, all are welcome, all are fed, all rejoice.

Ours is a communal faith, not an individualistic one. We are to recognize that all things come from God, not from “my power and the might of my own hand.” We are to reject eternally the temptation to treat another human being as an object of production. We are to leave Egypt and join the wedding feast. We are to obey God’s laws which limit the human power to oppress. We are to live as a people of equity, responsible for each other’s welfare, and willing to love our neighbor as ourselves.

That is a vision for community. It is a vision for a nation. It is that our nation sorely needs to renew — right now.

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