Why are communities eroding and hurting? Why
do so many people feel alone and divided?
Today we face a problem with the decline of community. Much is being
written these days about the loss of strong community in our society.
One of my favorite books this summer was Robert Putnam's "Bowling
Alone." His title is drawn from a simple illustration. Over the past
decade, the number of bowlers is up significantly, but league bowling is
down 40 percent. We are, quite literally, bowling alone.
Putnam's more serious thesis is that individualism is on the rise and
that the social capital necessary to maintain community and a civil
society is eroding around us. Putnam and many other authors point to a
variety of causes.
In the past, the church was the center for both religious and social
community. Neighborhoods were made up of life-long friends who seldom
moved, and career-long jobs tended to be a source of the long-term and
trusting relationships that are the essence of community. Now, the
influence of the church has eroded, transient lifestyles make next-door
neighbors strangers and job mobility has reduced the role of the
workplace as a source of strong and enduring community.
At the same time, the electronic media and information technologies are
also keeping us from social interaction. Millions of workers never leave
their homes as they accomplish their assignments at a remote computer
Others point to the impact of growing diversity as the source of
community erosion. The world is filled with different backgrounds,
lifestyles, goals and values. Just as the experts show a concern for
community, so do the people at PLU.
The future of community is an important issue at PLU. I believe three
realities are present here. First, our ideal is always beyond our
grasp-but we keep striving. Second, whatever our shortcomings, the
foundation of this community is ready to be supportive. Third, the same
forces that stress our larger community also impact PLU. Therefore,
maintaining a strong, positive and shared community is something we must
The Bible says in Matthew 20 that the Kingdom of God is like a landowner
hiring laborers to work in the vineyard. Early in the morning he hires
the first laborers and they agree on the usual daily wage. Every few
hours thereafter he goes out, finds more idle workers in the marketplace
and hires them for the same daily wage.
At the end of the day, when each person receives their wages, Matthew
tells us, "...they grumbled against the landowner." The landowner tells
them, "...take what belongs to you and go. Am I not allowed to do what I
choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am
generous? For the first shall be last, and the last shall be first."
The focus of this message is God's invitation to the kingdom. This is a
remarkable invitation. It doesn't just go out to you or me, or to a
select list of important people. It goes to all.
God invites us into a relationship with Him and into His family. It is
the invitation that establishes our equality with one another. All of us
are the same in God's eyes. It is the invitation that defines our common
ground, for we are the children of God. It is the invitation that links
together our common welfare - to live out the great commandment. It is
the invitation that promises I will never walk alone, because God
promises his presence. Finally, it is the invitation that calls us to
vocation as a worker in the vineyard and as a worker in the community
for a lifetime.
So let us resolve this day to explain and extend God's invitation to
this hurting, divided and often lonely world that surrounds us. Let us
extend the invitation right here on PLU's campus. For at our very best
we are many people and by God's invitation, we are one community!
This article was excerpted from President Loren Anderson's Sept. 18
chapel homily "Many People, One Community."