I was watching an episode of the TV show Firefly the other day. Firefly only lasted one series due to low ratings, which is a bit surprising seeing as it was created by Joss Whedon, of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' fame. Anyway, it's set a few hundred years in the future in a solar system that humans have colonised, with central planets run by a USA-Chinese alliance and several outer, frontier worlds that look quite a lot like the American Wild West. The show follows the nine-strong crew of the ship Serenity (a Firefly class spacecraft, hence the show's name) as they try to make a living for themselves, all the while avoiding the Alliance as best they can. The ship's captain, Malcolm Reynolds, fought on the losing side of the Unification War in which the Alliance gained control over most of the star system. Reynolds is an incredibly inspirational leader. He fiercely guards the togetherness of the crew, creating a family of disparate characters who (most of the time) protect and fight for each other. He makes each crew member feel they belong.
This got me thinking about how I'd love to be on Reynolds' ship, even with all the hardships of being on the run and living in such a confined space. I guess within all of us there is a longing for significance, for there to be some people who really love and care for us. We want to matter. More than that, I think we need to matter. It's part of our nature as human beings. And even though my faith in Jesus Christ tells me that I matter so much to the creator of the universe, I still need earthly community. One metaphor used in the New Testament to describe Jesus' followers is that of being God's temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says this:
Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
In some real, significant way, God dwells in us. Now it's a wonderful comfort to know that God's Spirit has made his home in me. But that verse in 1 Corinthians (and so many other passages in the Bible) talk about believers being the body, temple, family and bride of Christ in a collective way. It's not that each of us individually is part of God's body, the temple of God and so on. Together, we are the body of Christ, his temple, his family and his bride. I think that's an important difference. We need community with each other and we've been made that way. Indeed, it's simply an echo of the community of God, the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Scholars and writers have tried to describe the essence of the Christian God in all sorts of ways but I think the one I like best is 'perichoresis', which captures the mutual indwelling and mingling within the Godhead. The 'perichoresis' idea also makes room for us to join the Divine community, something which John 17: 20-21 gives a sense of:
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.'
Jesus prays that we would all be one, just as he and the Father are one. And he prays that we will be 'in us', united with God in perfect community. Wow.
It's very nearly Christmas and I'm looking forward to spending time with friends and family over the next week or so. May you know real, genuine community at this time, both with your loved ones and with God himself.