One of my friends told me a story about someone who had cancer (but got better) who, when first diagnosed, sat in a park and stared at a tree for about an hour, taking in the beauty of the moment. Yet, when he got better, he began to revert to his old ways of doing things. He found himself appreciating less and less the beauty of the moment, lacking a sense of gratitude, and began snapping at people for the littlest things.
“As the course of life move on, treasure and savour the good in a moment, make the best of the world and hold on.” That’s the advice Vaughn Benjamin, of the reggae band Midnite, offers in the song “Don’t be scared”. But it seems to me that we tend to take this advice to heart only when our mortality is staring us in the face.
This hits home for me. For I like to tell myself a similar story, about what really matters, and what an authentic way of life, modelled after Jesus should look like. Yet, without a means of celebrating and ritually enacting this story, I often find myself speaking and acting in such a way as to reflect the sort of story that is the very antithesis of the kind presented in the New Testament. I too get annoyed at the smallest of things, put myself before others, and dedicate too much time to my own creaturely comforts. And this is why we need Church, by which I mean community. It is through coming together, as a collective, that we may re-enact and celebrate the story of Jesus, of love and companionship, of looking out for the least of us, of standing in solidarity with the oppressed, and of holding on, treasuring and savouring the good in a moment, as Benjamin sings. We need the sacraments, the ritual celebrations, whereby the stories we tell become the stories we live. This is how our vision is shaped, not by consumer culture, but by the gospel, by stories of thanksgiving and communion. As Jesus said, “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matt. 18: 20).” Church, as I see it, need not take place in grand buildings, or amidst hundreds or persons. It can be as simple as sharing a meal with a friend, or having a beer in a pub; but what is important is that we gather in celebration not of consumer culture, or individualism, but of community, love, compassion, and forgiveness.