Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Loving Kindness of Community

 



 

Matthew 18:15-20

Jesus said, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Definitions:

Sangha – Community

Shala - Home

Metta – Loving Kindness

 

I struggled with this reading for a good part of this week.  It would be easy to write about the last line “where two or three are gathered, I am there.” But that discounts everything that came before.  Jesus appears to be talking about rules for throwing people out of community. This seems to be counter-intuitive to the life and teachings of Jesus.  Why would he talk about rules for leaving this community?  Then, while listening to Fr. John’s sermon, all became clear.  This is not about excommunication but about communication and community.  Fiercely working to keep all in community. This is about the seriousness of the call.  That lives will be affected by the decisions they make. They are expected to persevere to keep the community together. And that “if all else fails” then…But Jesus really doesn’t expect “all else to fail.”  He expects us to work hard to keep our community intact. But how?  

Many ideas come to mind when considering how to keep a community together: Compassion, Loving Kindness, Active Listening, Understanding, and Compromise. Over the past two millennia much of this has and has not been done.  There are still Christian communities that existed then and there are many that have grown, shifted, or changed through this radical commitment to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This idea of community could be paralleled in the Yoga Sangha.  Sangha is a Sanskrit term used in Buddhism to mean community.  In yoga is has been borrowed to mean the community of a shala (studio).  But yoga shalas are different, some focus on Power Hot Yoga, Some on Gentle Yoga, Some welcome All Levels of Yoga. Some shift and change as their community changes. But no matter what their emphasis is the idea of Metta or Loving Kindness radiates from them all.  In Metta Meditation you start with prayer for yourself, move out to pray for the other, and end with prayer for all. There is an example in the photo. This feeling of Loving Kindness for all is what ultimate unites every Yoga Shala, every Yoga Sangha.

Loving Kindness is what should unite the world. There is too much separation now. Not just in the physical quarantine of these times, but in our thoughts.  Many have forgotten to lead with Compassion, Loving Kindness, Active Listening (to other points of view), Understanding, and Compromise.  These are the ideals that Jesus set out in this reading today. These are the ideals that the Metta Meditation sets forth. These are the ideals that we should all take into our conversations with those we do not agree with. With God’s help may we all be happy, healthy, free of suffering, free of mental anxiety, live in peace, and may our lives be blessed with ease.


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