This week we were in Atlantic Beach enjoying some vacation time away. We ended up watching lots of movies due to Elsa’s arrival. One movie we enjoyed was called, Nomadland (2020), about a woman who after losing everything in the Great Recession, begins a journey as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. Through her travels she encounters other nomads, creating a community of friends with her fellow travelers. It is her community that helps her survive the challenges of living without a permanent home. This reminded me of a season in my life when the community around me carried me through a season of loss.
We sat together as a group, about twenty seminary students, silently waiting. In the next room our friend Jon slowly died as the nurses removed the life support system from his body. It had been six long days of ups and downs following Jon’s head-on automobile accident. He had never regained consciousness and on that day, March 11,1997, his body finally gave out. So, we sat, stunned by this turn, not able to feel or comprehend the death of our friend.
Never before had I lost a best friend. Never had I been so completely surrounded by a loving support system of fellow believers. For one week, life had stopped as students put their classes and homework aside to sit with those of us who were closest to Jon. Food and bedding were brought to the hospital waiting room. A prayer vigil was maintained for days as we were cared for by those who lived around us.
As the nurse announced the time of death, we clung to each other and wept with aching hearts. As I look back at those days and the long hours of sitting and waiting, I am overwhelmed by the love within this community of believers. My understanding of John 15:12 was expanded as I experienced the power of this verse, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
The older I get, the more I recognize the universal need for community. Whether you are a nomad or a long-time member of this church, you need community. As a new member to the family of St. Andrew’s, I have felt the love of this community, embracing our family as we moved into Brandon last summer. Honestly, every church should be defined by John 15:12. Anyone who comes to worship at St. Andrew’s should experience the excessive love of Christ overflowing from the community. Of course, this is dependent on each one of us and our willingness to love as we have been loved. This weekend, look around you. Who can you reach out to and share the love of Christ? I promise you—you will not have to look far. Everyone needs community.