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Kin-dom and Community – A Reflection

February 24, 2020

Tonight at our Church Session (Council) Meeting we discussed a lesson from the PC(USA)’s Lenten Devotional, “Becoming a Beloved Community: A Matthew 25 journey to the cross.” In the introduction Donna Frischknecht Jackson, the editor of “Presbyterians Today” posed this question about this Lenten season being different: What if this Lenten season… we looked beyond personal disciplines and committed to creating beloved communities in our own backyards–communities reflecting the inclusive and healing love that Jesus modeled as he made his way to the cross. (p.2)

She also shared the origin of the term “Beloved Community.” While it was originally coined by Josiah Royce, a 20th Century American philosopher, it was popularized by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King spoke often of the beloved community as an illustration of God’s kingdom as truly a kin-dom. This beloved community is a society based on justice for all and selfless love of one another. For King, a community became “beloved” when every person had their basic needs met. (p. 2)

Community… Beloved… Justice for All… Equality… these concepts aren’t pipe dreams, they are a reality toward which Christ-followers are called to build. As I considered this calling, I was reminded of Thomas Merton’s Epiphany on the corner of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville, Kentucky.

As he stood on the corner (now Thomas Merton Square), he was overwhelmed by his connection with all of the people.

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world. . . .

This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. . . . But this cannot be seen, only believed and ‘understood’ by a peculiar gift. (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

I believe that if Thomas Merton and Dr. King had been able to meet and share some time together, they would have both embraced the thought of the Beloved Community and the Kingdom of God as the Kin-dom of God. Perhaps this should be the journey we begin as this Lenten season begins. The journey will obviously continue long after Lent is over, but this is a good place to begin.

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