Daily Reflection
August 13th, 2008

Barbara Dilly

Department of Anthropology and Sociology
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It was a warm afternoon the last week in July, and I was sitting in the kitchen of my Amish friend, Mary. She was ironing with a gas powered steam iron while her bread dough sat rising on the counter. We were talking about all the storms we had this spring and summer, oats threshing, back pain, and the new produce auction building in the Amish community. We always have lots to visit about. When her husband Eli, a church bishop, came in to join the conversation, I told him I was writing a reflection for Creighton’s on-line ministry on the Gospel of Matthew that we read for today. I asked him for his thoughts but he first asked me to share mine. Here is what I said.

“I think that this passage is about the community of faith and how it holds individual Christians accountable. I also think it is about how the power of God works through the community of faith. The first part is about discipline and order, but I don’t think Jesus was talking about the role of the church community to discipline people so much as he was talking about how the power of God works in a community where individuals submit themselves to one another in an orderly community. I see how that works in the Amish community, but I think most people just see the Amish community as a boundary of rules and restrictions. But I don’t think the Amish see it that way. I think they see the boundaries as the gathering of individuals who submit themselves to agreement so that they can experience Christ in their midst.”

Eli’s round face beamed. His eyes twinkled and his huge white beard widened as he grinned. He pulled off his straw hat and the beads of sweat ran down his nose as he spoke with confidence. “It doesn’t start with discipline. It starts with love. We know God loves us and we are to love each other. There is nothing better we can experience on this earth than the love of our brother or sister. It is that love that allows us to address the sins in our midst in the way that Jesus said. We practice exactly what it says in the Bible. We’re not perfect people. We sin against each other. And we deal with it so it doesn’t go so far as to bring division in the community. We greatly value the Christian community because we know how very powerful it is to experience Jesus in our midst.”

This was my response. “I think our people have moved very far in the direction of practicing their faith and prayer life as individuals. We rarely hold each other accountable for our sins. And it is often very difficult for even two people to agree on anything. Instead, we isolate ourselves from each other and call on God to be with us as we go it alone against the world. Even as members of a faith community, we do not think of ourselves as one body with many parts, but instead, as many individual bodies who share a part of who we are with the transitory church community.” Eli and Mary agreed that this is what they see in the world and try to avoid.

As I reflect further on the Gospel for today and my conversation with my Amish friends, I have decided that I would like to start a small prayer group with one or two friends or relatives with whom we can pray openly together for the same things that we pray individually to God. I believe that this will be a very powerful experience of Christ in our midst. I pray with you that we will all grow in our relationship to God and relationships with each other through accountability to a faith community comprised of our family members, neighbors, and co-workers so that we may experience Christ in our midst each day.

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