One of my dear friends pastors a new church on the West Coast. We got a chance to catch up last month over the phone, and he regaled me in story after story of people in his congregation rallying around him and around each other in times of great happiness and deep sadness. Whether it was celebrating a pregnancy after several miscarriages or mourning a father's critical health issues, the unifying themes were that congregants loved and were loved, and that they did so without prompting from my friend but rather with spontaneity and persistence and sacrifice.
As we thanked God for these precious moments of true fellowship, we had to take a step back and feel a bit sad that such instances are the exception and not the rule. The world has gotten busier, more cynical, and more guarded, and the great tragedy is that the church is no exception. We are too caught up in our own schedules to extend ourselves for others, and too afraid of opening up to others to be cared for.
The place we believe to be the great salve for our society - ourselves, the body of Christ in the form of our groups of believers - is not only failing to extend compassion and honesty to a hardened and hurting world around us. Even worse, it is failing itself: my friend's examples of all members mourning as one mourns, and all members celebrating as one celebrates, should be commonplace within our faith communities, and yet they are not.
God so loved the world that He entered into it, as a man, and one who washed his followers' feet, prayed vulnerably before them in his last moments as a free man, and otherwise shared life and death openly and without reservation or pretense. That is good news. Would that we who believe it live so, for each other and for those around us who are just as hurting and alone, just as hungry for true human connection.