Through poetry, parable, video, interview and lyric Chris Hunter led a powerful, creative, quiet and reflective late night seminar yesterday considering the nature of Christian community with the aim that it might illicit a new experience of worship.

For Chris, it may be said, one does not enter the Christian community unscathed – one encounters Christ and we receive hope of peace and rest, but might there not also be a cost that requires us nothing short of rupture, that demands all of who we are?

Starting with the thought “Isn’t there always a cost when entering into relationship with other people?” we considered that wherever a community is formed, there is often a cost. Yet in our churches we often only consider that we will find faith and joy and peace. We think of what we receive entering this community, forgetting the nature of the cost.

This thought was then considered from four angles: The Cross (Matt. 27:45-54), Neighbour (Luke 10:25-37), Global Village (Luke 4:14-19) and Torn Apart (Matt. 10:34-39).

1.    The Cross

“Again Jesus cried out with a loud shout. Then he died.
Look, the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom…”

The question considered here was “What does the cross tell us about division?

On the cross Jesus suffers for what God wills – a people united by God’s love. This love challenged the political, economic and religious assumptions of the day – the cross was the reward for such a challenge. This is a hard way.

This love is a protest, this love costs us when we embrace it and because this love takes us the way of Jesus.

“This is love, the love of Christ, a love that might tear us apart.”

2.    Neighbour (This was not the title of this section but it is fitting.)

“Which one of these three was a neighbour to the man who encountered thieves?”

Who is our neighbour?

What does it mean to see them?

What does it mean to see ourselves in them?

What does it mean to turn against deep socio-political and -economic differences and help ‘the other’?

“This is love, the love of Christ, a love that might tear us apart.”

3.    Global Village

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

What will it cost us to be in community with the slave, the poor, the destitute, the imprisoned, the blind and the oppressed? Where will it take us in a world that knows and experiences so much of these wrongs? Will we go? Will we let the call of Christ rupture us in this way, so we may be united with these others?

This kind of solidarity costs much more than Fairtrade bananas and chocolate…

“This is love, the love of Christ, a love that might tear us apart.”

4.    Torn Apart

“Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I haven’t come to bring peace but a sword. I’ve come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-lawPeople’s enemies are members of their own households.

“Those who love father or mother more than me aren’t worthy of me. Those who love son or daughter more than me aren’t worthy of me. Those who don’t pick up their crosses and follow me aren’t worthy of me. Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them.”

These are startling words that warn us of how deep the rupture goes, that make us aware of what it means to be torn apart. At a time when swords were used to protect the family, Jesus imagines them turned inward; this is the original disruption of the gospel of God’s kingdom that invited followers to their crosses.

The same symbolic cuts, or experiences of the same rupturous kind, may very well await us when we commit ourselves to Christian community.

“This is love, the love of Christ, a love that might tear us apart.”

[All Scripture quotations taken from the Common English Bible (CEB)]