Facets of Community Episode 6: Wisdom

Each year the FBCR congregation sets aside a few weeks for reflection. We reflect collectively on who we are as a church, and we reflect individually on how we relate to the church at large. From now through Sunday, November 7, 2021 I want to invite our faith community to consider broadly what it means to live in community together. Toward that end, we will highlight nine different facets of community, nine ways by which our community takes shape.

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Wisdom is critical to the life and work of a faith community. If we are following God’s call to be a redemptive presence in the world we will necessarily encounter things in the world for which there are no simple answers. Those questions arise in big and small ways. Anything from, “How should a congregation respond to the continued unmasking of systemic racism in our community?” or, “What’s the most effective way to join efforts to eliminate poverty?” to, “Which organizations should we support,” or, “Is our form of communion open and welcoming enough for everyone?” Every facet of the life First Baptist Church requires a depth of insight and the cultivation of knowledge. Everything we do as a church requires wisdom, so where does wisdom come from?

We’ve heard a few answers to that question. “Wisdom is God-given.” Indeed that seems true. “Wisdom comes from life experience.” That also matches with my experience. “Wisdom mirrors intellect,” or, “Wisdom mirrors character.” I can’t prove those are true, but there seems to me to be an element of truth in them. But there is a source of wisdom that we should be careful not to overlook – community.

We often think of wisdom in the way that naturalist Jean Pierre Huber understood and described the lives of ants in 1810. In his book, On Trails, which we read as part of our Lenten pilgrimage last year, Robert Moor tells how Huber’s early speculation searched for a kind of specialized access to knowledge unavailable to other creatures in the way they go about finding food. Other naturalists of his time even speculated after watching such tiny creatures work with such efficiency at finding food and returning it to their next that they must have divine knowledge. God told them where to find food, or at least designed and created the ants with a prevenient knowledge of where food would be and when it would be there.

Later discoveries in the anatomy of ants revealed that they were capable of producing and following tiny, invisible pheromone trails. That helped explain how the masses knew where the food was once it had been discovered, but it took a bit more observation to answer how they found it in the first place. Researchers disrupted those pheromone trails just to see how the ants would respond. When they did so, ants would reach the broken spot in the trail, pause for a second, then wonder off in seemingly aimless directions. They were clueless! Eventually though, simply because there were so many of them, one ant would stumble upon the original food or some new source of sustenance and immediately turn and walk back to the nest leaving a new pheromone trail behind.

As it turns out the source of the ants’ ability to provide for the colony, their wisdom, was God-given, but it was given in the form of a community who, by being present in the world both individually and collectively had a kind of wisdom among themselves. I think faith communities are much the same and not just because we spend an inordinate amount of time wondering around trying to find food. When we come together to discuss the way we do life together, the way we respond to struggles in the world, the way we worship together, all the elements of church life, our varied experiences in life and our varied perspectives have a way of making us better together than we might be on our own.

So here are some things to consider over the next couple of day:

How are you sharing your perspective, expertise, experiences with your faith community? That doesn’t have to mean taking on a big project or putting yourself out there as a thought leader. It might mean those things, but it might also simply mean being in conversation about the important topics of our time, sharing your thoughts.

Here’s another thing to think about: how are you listening for the perspectives of others in the community? How is the way someone else experiences the world informing, sharpening, shaping your life, your faith, and your service.

As always, should these moments of reflection stir thoughts that you’d like to share or bring up the wish for further conversation I’m always happy to chat. Just reach out by calling the church office or sending me an email. See you Sunday.

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