During this strange time of isolation from others, I have been thinking a lot about the idea that “we were made from community for community.” For those of us that believe and follow the Trinity, this is our core; our axis. This morning, I found myself (still) reading The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr. A book that I am, undoubtedly, never going to finish. That said, when I find the time to pick it up again, it’s like reading it all afresh.
I stumbled upon the paragraph that feels like the central point of the whole book. Talking about Paul’s life after his encounter with the Christ and setting off into his life as a community worker — bringing both Jews and Gentiles together. Knowing Gentiles, too, belonged. Rohr refers to this as Paul’s “corporate understanding of salvation” by referencing “en Christo” that Paul repeatedly used throughout his letters. He describes “en Christo” as “the gracious, participatory experience of salvation.”
All of us, without exception, are living inside of a cosmic identity, already in place, that is driving and guiding us forward. We are all en Christo, willingly or unwillingly, happily or unhappily, consciously or unconsciously.
During this time, is it not more clear that we are participants in this cosmic identity? There is a belonging at even a cellular level — knowing there is not one part of this Planet that has gone untouched by an invisible virus. A virus that may carry a name, but no physical presence outside of those it infects and affects.
Paul seemed to understand that the lone individual was far too small, insecure, and short-lived to bear either “the weight glory” or the “burden of sin.” Only the whole world could carry such a cosmic mystery of constant loss and renewal.
“Only the whole could carry…” Friends, we are in the time of great love and great suffering; the very two things that Rohr says are the greatest paths to transformation. It is not hard to find a sense of loss when reading or watching the news. It is also not hard to find a sense of communal longing to touch, see, and be with one another. From food deliveries to hospital staff, standing ovations for janitorial staff, first responders honoring one another; or neighbors drawing reminders of love and belonging with chalk. It is doorstep baked goods and grocery drop-offs to our Boomer parents that remind me of how we do shoulder this together.
It is also a reminder that while the good exists, suffering is still present. The good neither dismisses nor minimizes the pain we are seeing throughout the world. Instead, I believe we are called to hold both in our hands and feel them. I have been making a conscious decision to cry when I need to after watching videos of families losing loved ones or doctors, nurses or PA’s talking about how hard it is without the supplies they desperately need. I have also not been shy in hiding my anger at the injustice of it all.
If there is anything therapy has taught me, it’s that a multitude of feelings can co-exist with one another. We can hold them in our hands, feel their weight, sit with them, and let them change us.
Like I have told a few friends and family: if this time does not change me, then I don’t know what will.
Paul’s own great love and great suffering taught him what it meant to acknowledge the truth of how we have always belonged to Someone and Everyone. My biggest hope in all of this is to recognize that the very truth of communal longing inside of us has always been there. Having a body, mind, heart, soul understanding of “from community, for community” helps us see what it means to belong to one another. We carry one another.
[Understanding the en Christo] is crucial for the future of Christianity, which is still trapped in highly individualistic notion of salvation that ends up not looking like salvation at all.
My prayer is for the next time we have the ability to touch. May our hugs be tighter, longer, sincere. May our eye contact hold. May our screentime be less. May we let this time transform us from the inside out.