Jesus said to his closest companions and followers that he did not consider them servants but friends. Before going to trial and execution, he told the same people that he wanted to spend his final precious moments with them. Jesus seemed to long for friendship (just as we do) and take incredible joy in it. Clearly he spent important and much needed time alone, but in everything else he did, he did it with others, and in many ways his life was a celebration of community. But this was no ordinary community. Jesus’ circle included Roman officials and anti-Roman freedom fighters, tax collectors and Pharisees, women and men, Pagans, Jews and Samaritans. The power of Jesus’ love, acceptance and inclusion was evidenced by genuine diversity. And this was no show: these were truly friends. Jesus’ life was an embodiment—an incarnation—of his higher purpose of reconciliation and healing.
The early Christ-following communities after Jesus embodied this same diversity and friendship. They were not only beneficiaries of this radical acceptance, but also extended it to others. Here at Cedar Ridge we are all descendants of this lineage, and are invited into the same adventure in friendship. Like all humans, we long to be fully known and fully accepted. But this is also a challenge: we have all experienced the joy of friendship and also the pain of rejection. We’ve all felt the comfort of inclusion but also the loneliness of being on the outside. So we are daring to dream that we can be a community where no one is alone. A community, like the one around Jesus, that is diverse in its beauty: black, white, male, female, young, old, gay, straight, married, single. A community that embraces difference, and is transformed by it. A community that demonstrates to the whole world that reconciliation and healing are possible.