by Rev. Dr. Ed Goode, Christ Church UCC Fort Thomas
Yes, this is a brick. Nothing fancy about it. Just a brick sitting on a sidewalk. But if you watch the movie In and Of Itself on Hulu, the brick has some pretty significant meaning. I cannot explain more than that without spoiling the film (which is not a narrative story but instead a filming of a one man show in NYC) but as my wife Amy and I watched the film, I thought of the idea of The Beloved Community.
In the film, a widely diverse group of people gather around a story that unfolds during the performance. The story is told in some unique, beautiful, and moving ways which culminate in a deeply meaningful and moving conclusion that made me long to have been there in person myself.
So again, I don’t want to spoil anything about the experience of this film but there are some parallels to what I think of when I reflect on the idea of The Beloved Community. The Beloved Community gathers together – it is not an individual experience but something that happens with one another. The story of God in the Scriptures unfolds not primarily to individuals but to communities and groups of people who come together from varying backgrounds and histories.
In the film, the community gathers around a story that unfolds over the course of the performance. The Beloved Community also gathers around a story that took place thousands of years ago but a story that continues to be written today. We gather around a story of the Living God who is still speaking into our lives and into our world and who is still at work and still moving. The story is not static but dynamic and moving. In fact, there’s one very significant part of the film that also reflects the dynamic of the shared story.
When people gathered for the performance, they might have thought they were going to be entertained. What they experienced, instead, was something that involved literally every single one of them. It brought in their stories, their experiences, their hopes, their wounds. And all were a part of the whole. The Beloved Community is also one that is not for spectators but involves all of our stories and each of us is a vital and necessary part of where the community goes.
Finally, there’s one thing that came up after we watched it a second time (this time with our kids since they didn’t see it the first time). After the film, one of them said, “did you see ________” (spoiler not included). “Metaphorically?”, Amy asked. “No the literal _______”. So we went back and sure enough…there it was. And once you see it, you cannot unsee it. How did I miss __________ in the first place? Later that night, I emailed a friend who had also seen the film and asked her, “Did you see _________”? She hadn’t and was going to go back to look for it. God’s Beloved community it like that as well… sometimes it isn’t something we see or we are looking for, but once you see it, you cannot unsee it and there’s an ongoing heart to help others see and experience the fullness of God’s Beloved Community.
There’s a bunch more that I could say about these connections but I invite you to take 90 minutes and watch this film. It is only on the Hulu streaming service so you can get a free trial of it if you don’t subscribe and watch the film. It is worth it. But as you watch, prayerfully reflect on what it says for us as one branch of the Beloved Community that God is still working on.
Grace, Peace, Love, and Joy.