I truly believe that the best way to know God is in community. And I interpret that broadly, far beyond just the idea of a religious community. I mean the common-unity that is us. All of us in creation. Go to church, sure. But you could also wonder at the stars. Commune with the trees. Feel the grass under your bare feet. Maybe not today, it’s winter. But you could make a snow angel. Or even just ponder the hope that is under the snow, in the hard ground, just waiting for spring. That’s all part of being community. It’s all part of knowing God, even if that’s not what you might name it.
For me, that’s a key thing about Jesus. I think “the Word made flesh,” as the Gospel of John describes him, is meant to show us how we, too, are both divine and earthly. Far from being set apart, Jesus means to embrace us, hold us close, teach us how we’re connected by love, how we’re part of the community of people and the community of creation. All of us, but especially the broken, the hurting, the needy, the left out and the excluded. The way Jesus lived was meant to show us how to bring together, connect, engage, embrace and heal. The way Jesus lived was meant to show us that we are capable of miracles, too.
Things don’t always turn out how, or when, you expect. But even things that might seem impossible or improbable aren’t for Jesus. Or us. But it all hinges on our openness to embracing community.
Jesus, the Bible says, had twelve followers that were closer to him than the rest. Even Jesus couldn’t reach everyone, he had to start out with a small community of “apprentice Jesuses.” We might be most familiar with the story of how Jesus saw some fishermen and called them to come fish for people with him. He said “follow me” and they dropped everything and did.
I think that story always needs a lot of unpacking, but I’m going to leave it for now because I’m more interested in a lesser known story told only in the Gospel of John. In that story, John had his own followers - I’d call them “apprentice Johns,” but that sounds awkward - and he points Jesus out to a couple of them and tells them that’s the guy he’s been talking about, the messiah. They go watch Jesus for a bit and finally Jesus asks what they want. They want to see what he’s doing. So Jesus tells them to “come and see.”
Come and see. And he didn’t mean just stand and watch. He meant come and be a part of things, experience things, learn things, share things. Be connected. Be part of the community.
This is why it’s so important to see Jesus as one us - so that we can see that we are one with Jesus. And each other. And creation. Our uniqueness, our own thread in the fabric, helps make the fabric stronger, healthier and whole, when we see ourselves in community.
It might, at first, seem a little tone-deaf to talk about engagement and community at a time when we can’t gather or embrace or engage each other in person as we’d like. But Jesus, I believe, invited those first apprentices to something different, something that wasn’t like what they knew. He invited them to create, to be open to discovering new ways to engage the world. Come and see.