The Beloved Community

by Rev. Ross Reddick, Sycamore

Monday, January 17th, our country honored the legacy and the courageous witness of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King held many roles and was many things: a gifted student, an organizer, a rhetorical mastermind, a Morehouse man, a philosopher, a theologian, a political strategist, an ethicist, a Nobel peace prize recipient, and the list goes on. 

But above all else, and in the center of his being…he was a black preacher and the product of the black religious experience in this country.  Before he was anything else, he was “church folk.”

Over the trajectory of his life and career, Dr. King became motivated by a few conceptual paradigms which guided his work. 

One of those was the notion of the “beloved community.” It’s a phrase he didn’t coin himself, but by in large, when we hear that phrase these days, many will directly associate it with the ongoing work being done in the areas of civil and human rights.

Of course the concept of “beloved community,” is, first and foremost, a scriptural concept. Right there—in the persons of the trinity—we see beloved community. Just a few Sundays ago, that voice came down from heaven, saying to Jesus, “you are beloved. Furthermore, it’s no accident that the first post-baptism task that Jesus goes about is the work of gathering a community—the call of the disciples. “Come and see,” says the Son of Man in John’s gospel.

Pouring forth from scripture, Dr. King was able to understand community in a powerful way, because he knew that our lives are inter-dependent. In one sermon he said, It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Perhaps more than anything else, the work of the church is the work of community building. It’s helping people move from acquaintances and small talk to deeper conversations about life’s joys and struggles. It’s acknowledging that communities gather in a myriad of ways. It’s proving the holy space that people need to lean into their spiritualty and nurture holy friendships. It’s the sharing of life along with the sharing of bread and wine.

Finally, it is God’s love which binds us to one another. It is our shared faith in Christ as Lord that serves as the bedrock of our Christian communities. God’s love always precedes our own. I, for one, am exceedingly thankful for the community building that’s happening in our Presbytery, in our local churches, and in the larger expressions of the Church universal.  The ongoing work of building this beloved community is vital.

May the Holy Spirit inspire and animate each of us to find specific ways to build beloved community for God’s glory.