In the fellowship hall at our church, the Sunday school tables looked so different. Not grouped for children, teens, or grownups, the tables were manned instead with nurses.
Sitting behind laptops and wearing masks, they were armed with syringes and needles primed with a vaccine against the most deadly virus to grip the world in some hundred years.
Our church has joined the fight against the virus. Thus, on a sunny Sunday a few weeks ago, my husband Dan and I showed up and rolled up our sleeves — getting our first Pfizer vaccine shot against COVID-19. The second came three weeks later.
What we got most, however, was something we didn’t expect. We got our community again. Others are experiencing the same. As we struggle back to our churches, neighborhood rec centers, football stadiums, and other venues — to get a vaccine (of all things) — we’re rediscovering each other. Or surely we’re trying.
As I told a friend, “Just being with other people again, especially to get a shot to flatten the curve — actually felt like doing something holy.” Yes, I said that.
Could that be, however, because God designed us to be together? Connected as one? And not just talking about it?
We surely see that in the Bible, right off the bat, in the second Book of Genesis, when God set Adam in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15). Soon, however, as most of us know, the Lord made his helper Eve because “it [was] not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
This was about a man and his wife, of course, but their God-made bond also provides a model for being in community. We’re not meant to slog and toil through life by ourselves. We actually need each other. No wonder the Bible keeps offering reminders:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)
But if we still don’t get it, this message goes on: “But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:10-11).
Dozens of other verses and stories on community brighten the Bible — the Magi seeking the Christ child together, the woman at the well meeting Christ and then running to tell her whole village, Jesus Himself going to the Garden of Gethsemane, not by Himself but with His friends (even if they fell asleep on the job).
Community, it turns out, is not about just hanging with perfect folks who look, walk, vote, and think like us. It’s about people who will struggle with us.
It isn’t about being nice; it’s about being educated about what others are going through and then caring enough to join with them in their struggle. It’s saying no to hateful actions like anti-Asian racism and violence, and saying yes to seeing the pain of those around us and finding ways to be with people in the struggle.
Indeed, one of the worst aspects of the pandemic, say scholars such as Kyle Harper of the University of Oklahoma, is its merciless impact on community — “of loved ones passing in anguished solitude, of respectful rites denied or deferred.”
So, the irony? The quickest route out of our pandemic sorrow is to pull together — whether that means we stay home when we’d rather be together, masking up when we wish we didn’t have to, or rolling up our sleeves and getting the vaccine. We do what it takes to save countless lives, not just our own.
I understand that not everyone can get the vaccine. A health condition may prevent that. Some may have other concerns. But as one who remembers childhood scourges — chicken pox, measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio — that ran rampant before vaccines were available, I know firsthand the gratitude to fellow citizens who did their part to stop the torment together.
At my church, members and even people we’d never seen before showed up and were welcomed in as Jesus welcomes us. Following Him, I invite us all to reflect on every aspect of our lives to see whether we’re fostering community or kicking it to the curb. As we do, we’ll be reminded that community is tough work. But we get it right if we do what Jesus asks of all of us — stop talking and start loving.Leave a Comment