My next door neighbors, Bob and Beulah, died during the past year. We live in an old fashioned neighborhood where people still exchange news and food, and neighbors care about the well-being of one another. All of the neighbors shared Bob's journey from being a healthy guy dressed in a lumberjack flannel shirt, working in the yard at the crack of dawn, to slowing down a bit, to having Visiting Angels arriving at the house for four hour shifts, to being transferred to a hospice unit where he died. We all knew when Bob's adult children and grandchildren were in town to comfort Bob's bride of seventy years, and we always did our best to lend our support and express our concern. We quietly checked to make sure there were indications of movement in the house, and routinely rolled the trash bins out to the curb. Some of the neighbors provided rides to doctor's appointments.
The first day I moved into my little house Bob and Beulah arrived at my front door with a full meal, and as the years went by I got to know the rest of the family. Bob, a Gideon, supplied me with cases of Bibles when I was a Staff Chaplain at Scottsdale Healthcare, and if my car didn't move out of the driveway for more than two days, Bob was at the door to make sure I was ok. After long days at work, I would sometimes find Bob at my front door holding a plate of Beulah's latest gourmet delights.
At the memorial service for Bob, I was with Maria, who lives across the street. A year earlier, I officiated at a memorial service for Maria's husband, and Bob and Beulah were both there.
As Christians we are called to live in community. We are called to share our lives, our pain, our faith and our values. Community exists wherever we gather to love and support one another. Church exists wherever two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus.
Beulah died a year and a week after Bob's death. She brought light wherever she was, and loved her husband for all of the seventy years of their marriage.
Once again I sat with Maria from across the street at Beulah's memorial service. In our neighborhood, we don't mind shedding tears in the presence of each other and God, because we are a community.
I sometimes wonder if we don't make our theology too complicated. Perhaps it boils down to delivering a casserole to our neighbor.