Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Three-part harmony



Late one afternoon, I took a walk. Geese and ducks were settling into their resting areas when I disturbed their nightly ritual. Most of the ducks waddled away, and a few smaller birds took flight toward the water.

But the Canada Geese did not want to yield. Two stubbornly stood their ground.

The walking path took me between them and the water. But they were all honking at me, encouraging me to turn around. This was their territory.

Then a third goose, the largest in the gaggle, came charging toward me. The other two, seeing their leader come, quickly moved toward him.

Together, the three of them stood body to body, their necks extended as high as they could reach. In unison, they honked as loudly as I have ever heard geese honk. Their warning reached a fever pitch.

A potential adversary was too close, so they stood tall and bravely honked together.

I never broke stride, but I walked quickly past them. I was perhaps four steps beyond them when their honking ceased. I glanced back to see that they were making their way toward the water. And then I realized what they had done.

The geese had found strength in numbers.

My mind jumped to Ecclesiastes 4:12: "A three-ply cord doesn’t easily snap" (CEB).

In the immediate context of that verse, the writer cynically observes that lonely people work hard all their lives and are never satisfied with their wealth. The text continues with the reflection that two are better than one, because they can share the fruits of the work and can support each other should the other fall.

We sometimes take community for granted. The two geese who felt threatened had allowed themselves to stand passively outside the community until it was almost too late. The man walking by became a threat.

Their honking was both a warning and a cry for help from the community.

Perhaps there is a series of questions we should ask about the communities to which we belong.

• What holds the community together?

• What is its relevance for today?

• How does the community help equip its members for the future?

There is growing awareness today that Christians belong to the community founded by Jesus Christ. It makes sense to apply those questions to our local churches as well.

What concepts of Jesus hold us together? How does faith in Jesus shape our future?

Moreover, our conversations about Jesus should not be limited to the community that is the local church. We must also ask: What concepts about Jesus do people outside the church have? Are these ideas winsome or repelling to them?

Community is formed by creating trust, not by applying technique. In the Christian community, our trust is in Jesus Christ.

What is Jesus seeking to teach us about community?


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