Saturday, May 31, 2008
E-mail to Penn InterVarsity, 5/31/08
Subject: Summer Reading
I write to you this afternoon from my porch in southeastern Pennsylvania. Thunderstorms from earlier have rolled away and it's fresh and cool and pretty out.
You may have heard us at various times in the previous year prattle on about the importance of community. You may not have quite understood what the big deal was. It seems a simple concept, and our emphasis on it may not seem very profound. After all, don't we all live in community? Our school is in the city, and most of us further live in communities within College Houses.
The truth is that while community is a really simple idea, when it functions it has profound power to transform those who live in it. Community is not just an agglomeration of people; it's what occurs when those people take on a collective identity and life together. In real sense they become part of one another and their web of interactions changes all who are involved.
"Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." - Proverbs 27:17
That might sound a tad on the creepy side to you. I think twinges of creepiness come from examples we've seen where acquiring a collective identity has meant relinquishing an individual one. We've seen streams of Nazis marching in lockstep. Communist propaganda seems to advocate this relinquishment. And there's always the Borg Collective from Star Trek.
But the paradox of Christian community is that individuals lose none of their individuality in joining it. On the contrary, as we collectively acquire more of an identity together, our individual identities are actually enhanced. We become more ourselves.
This is the mystery that we are talking about when we encourage community. It's something that must be experienced to be fully understood, but take my word for it when I say it's a marvelous thing indeed.
"If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. " - 1 Corinthians 12:26-27
(Read all of 1 Corinthians 12:4-27 for all of the classical Biblical passage on community.)
I write this to all of you today to invite you into a facet of our community that you can participate in even over the summer. I'm of course talking about - blogging!
Blogging is something I'm passionate about. A group of blogs can provide many of the same functions as an in-person community, and in some cases they do an even better job.
Blogs can be incubators of discourse. They allow people to present ideas in a format often better thought out and more communicative than in-person discussion. Comments sections and other blogs allow people to respond and have conversation.
Posters and readers alike learn and develop ideas significantly faster than is often possible in person. The result? We learn more about who we are, who we'd like to be, and what we want to do in the world. Iron sharpens iron.
Now, our in-person community of InterVarsity also has a collection of blogs associated with some of its members. As is also evident when we come together in person, they display the wonderful variety in individual identity that God has given each of us.
As I said, these blogs provide a vibrant opportunity for growth in community even now over the summer. I've included a directory and short description of many of these blogs.
And if this is the sort of thing you're interested in, I encourage you to join in on the fun. Don't let any feeling that you don't have value to contribute stop you - as with our fellowship at large, I'm certain that is not the case.
"To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." 1 Corinthians 12:7
[Note: Here's another e-mail that I could have made into a post but was just easier to leave as-is.]