“Bbbbrraaappff” – Approximately the sound made by Nat on Ben’s tummy, to which Ben responded with a squeal of laughter and a broad smile.Ben is our youngest grandchild, now 6 months old, and a most enjoyable part of our holiday in France this summer.We stayed in a gite at La Mayet, near Ambert, and for two weeks, Ben had the mostly undivided attention of any one of four adults.Nat and Rachel are proving loving and diligent parents, and even after a broken night’s sleep, Ben, now refreshed and bouncing, was greeted by a warm ‘hello Ben’.Not surprisingly, Ben thrived on the attention he was receiving.During the week, his wide range of sounds began to be attached to specific ‘locations’ – mama/dada seemed to be used more in Nat & Rachel’s arms, and there seemed to be the beginning of a ‘Ben’ sound.He learned to do a back to front roll and a front to back roll while we were there, and began moving his legs in a concerted attempt to crawl.Humans are unique in the world in the amount of time they invest in their offspring, and in the length of time before the infant is self-sufficient.(30 odd years, I hear some parents groan!).Children are a time-costly investment; you can give them all sorts of ‘things’, but children really thrive when they are given time, and if their natural parents don’t give them enough, they tend to find a surrogate who has the time for them that they need and crave.
Communities are not that different.The little place we stayed consisted of about 6-7 households, linked to half a dozen or so other hamlets of varying sizes.Dispersed over a considerable area of land, the communities had every opportunity to disintegrate into isolated pockets.However, there was in evidence a vibrant and strong community, open to the guests who regularly stayed among them, despite the language barriers.This community, obviously available to each other a ‘good neighbours’, had not come about by chance.While we were there, they were holding a ‘scarecrow’ competition with households making their own imaginative ‘scarecrows’, from a doctor to an angler, a dancer to a very realistic apple picker.I learnt that this was one of several community events throughout the year – a committee arranged the events and competitions, including barbeques, dances, bonfires, and so forth.When an event became stale, they varied the programme.There was a special emphasis on children being able to join in the events.Even the prizes – and there were prizes for all – were selected to be the things that the recipients would find helpful.There was a very considerable investment of time in the community, and it was paying dividends.
It was a poignant paradox that while we were seeing a community grow in mutual inter-dependence and support, the headlines from ‘home’ were all about riots, community disintegration, criminal destruction and a self-centred attitude that spells the death of our community.It is one of the tragedies of our time and place that household after household has become an apparently self-sufficient island.We take for granted the time and energy others put into community cohesion, and lament when some facility closes, but we invest little of our own time, and wonder why our communities are community only in name.It is the constant cry of every voluntary organisation that people are not willing to take on the responsibility and time commitment of investing in their community and young people, and quite often the time commitment of young people and others as members is also lacking.Considerable amounts of time are invested in fantasy communities on-line and on-screen, while starving the real communities of the oxygen of personal participation.It is in these real communities that values and morals and standards are shared and upheld in a natural day to day communication, and it is the absence of the sharing of these values that leads ultimately to the self-harming scenes of community disintegration that we have witnessed.Without shared morals, we are amoral, and a people can be amoral only for so long before they are immoral.
Jesus taught us to call God ‘Our Father’ and founded by his life laid down a community of love “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (The Bible, John 13.34) God in Christ invested everything he had in this community, a community where he invites each of us to grow in love and knowledge of him and to become more like him.It is a community which often makes mistakes, but is a nursery for new life and growth in Christ.It is a vibrant and strong community, open to guests and newcomers.A community with a place for you – but only reaching its and your full potential with the investment of your time.Join us on September 25th for ‘Back to Church Sunday’ and on 9th October for the Harvest Thanksgiving to the Lord who has given so much and asks for so little.
Praying that you may invest time and energy in your community, and find a warm welcome in the community of Christ’s church, the first fruit of the harvest to eternal life in community with God.
Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ, Simon Cox.