“Community is like a large mosaic. . . . We can do little with individual stones except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic, portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? If one of them, even the least spectacular one, is missing, the face is incomplete.” Henri Nouwen
Last year, when I read this in a book of daily meditations, I marked it. I wanted to remember it, refer back to it, because I love this image of community, this image of church—“one big mosaic portraying the face of Christ.”
At least, that’s what we as church portray to the world when we are at our best. Every small shape fitting together just so, every color complimenting one another. All contributing to the overall affect—some light, some dark, some shiny, some dull, some that catch the eye and others blending subtly in the shadowed background. All the stones working together to reflect Jesus. That’s who we are, that’s what we do at our best. In sacred partnership with God, we come together, remain together, creating something beautiful to behold.
But, alas, we are not always at our best. All too often we portray something, all right, but certainly not the face of Christ. We compare and judge, get suspicious and fearful—and then we exclude. When that happens, as Nouwen says, “the face is incomplete.” We forget that to create the contours of the divine face, we need all of the stones, all of the colors, all of the shapes. We need each other. We need to listen to each other. We need to learn from each other. We need to watch over each other in love.
Nouwen says, “Nothing is sweet or easy about community.” He can say that again! But, I for one want to be a part of a church that chooses to do the hard work of listening to each other, learning from each other and being honest with each other out of love. I want to be a part of a mosaic in which “each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of God.” What a beautiful face to create! What a beautiful face to behold!