[IMAGE: Pacific Lutheran Scene]
W I N T E R     1 9 9 6


We find community in our middle name


[PHOTO: Loren
Anderson]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 terminal.

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 work toward.

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."

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Source: Pacific Lutheran Scene, Winter 1996
Edited by: Janet Prichard, Senior Editor (prichajd@plu.edu)
Maintained by: Webmaster (webmaster@plu.edu).
Last Update: 12/13/96