September 7, 2014
Matthew 18:15-20
Romans 13:8-14
Exodus 12:1-14


The Meaning of Community
Proper 18 | OT 23

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Ron Love
The Moravian Community of Herrnhut in Saxony was well established by the year 1727. Unfortunately, dissension and bickering began to plague the commune. The leader of Herrnhut, Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, realized only a revival would restore order among his followers. On May 12 the revival was held and a great spirit came upon the people. By the end of the summer the communicants wanted this magnificent blessing to continue, so on August 27 a prayer vigil began. On that August morning 24 men and 24 women decided to spend one hour in prayer, with the time being scheduled so someone was praying every hour of the day. Soon others joined what became known as the "hourly intercession." Amazingly this discipline lasted for 100 years. Those who participated based their calling on this Old Testament text: "The sacred fire was never permitted to go out on the altar" (Leviticus 6:13).

All three of our lectionary readings for this Sunday deal with living in a community with fellow believers. Though each lesson presents a distinctly different circumstance, the same lesson of loving your neighbor prevails. Exodus discusses sharing the common ritual of remembrance. The epistle speaks of righteous living based on the precept of love. The gospel lesson deals with forgiveness and reconciliation. If the three lessons are brought together into a single concept they define for us the meaning of being a part of a Christian community, which is for us the church.

The Arbella, a ship of 350 tons, 28 cannons, and a crew of 52, set sail from Cowes in the Isle of Wight on March 29, 1630. The passengers on board for the voyage across the Atlantic were the future leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The families could do little to amuse themselves during the long hours at sea: the most popular form of entertainment was listening to a sermon.

As the Arbella neared the coast of the New World, John Winthrop, the leader of the colony, delivered a stirring sermon, whose words President Ronald Regan repeated in his inaugural address. Winthrop prophesied to the colonists: "We shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all the people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our god in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world." With those words the Puritans had their mandate: to be the perfect Christian community, one to be imitated throughout civilization....

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September 7, 2014
Proper 18 | OT 23
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