Have you ever wondered why being a Christian is more than just a group activity?
On my walks in winter mornings, I’ve often watched a gaggle of geese, maybe 15-20, circling in their daily “fly about” around their warm and sunny “resort,” a nearby lake at Green Valley Park. Today I heard a single goose crying off in the distance, separated from the normal noisy camaraderie of the group. This bird was desperately struggling to avoid being left behind. What frantic cries, what an effort on its part! But it did finally catch up with the others and pulled into line third from the end.
As Christians we feel, at times, not unlike that lone goose. When we are falling behind in life’s “formation,” our fellow church members make a place for us and offer reassurance. That’s why working and praying with others in Christian fellowship is essential. As Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (NRSV Matt. 18:20).
But that doesn’t mean that such a group dynamic is all that there is to Christianity. Which leads me to ask you, what would you do if you were the only Christian in your town? What would you do if you were the only Christian in the world? How much faith would you have? How alone would you feel?
That aloneness is going to happen to each of us. As we die, as we begin to find out what the next life is like, we are going to be moving off into uncharted territory by ourselves. Congregations can’t help us. Friends and family can’t help us. But the Lord will be there, his spirit ever-present, supporting our spirit.
And so, as Brother Lawrence, a 17th century Carmelite monk, discovered, Christianity is a great deal more than a group activity. In essence, it’s a one to one conversation with the Lord. And so Brother Lawrence tells us: “Lift up your heart to Him, sometimes even at your meals, and when you are in company; the least little remembrance will always be acceptable to Him. You need not cry very loud; He is nearer to us than we are aware of.” (The Practice of the Presence of God, Letters 46)