A member of a certain parish, who previously had been attending services regularly, suddenly stopped coming to church. After a few weeks, the priest decided to pay him a visit.
The priest found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for the priest's visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited. The priest made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning log. After some minutes, the priest took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone.
Then he sat back in the chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As one lone ember's flame flicked and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon, it was cold and lifeless. The priest glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave; he slowly stood up. Picked up the cold dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow, once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.
As the priest reached the door to leave, his host said, with a tear running down his cheek, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday."
Christians are called to belong, not just to believe. God created us for community. That is what the "Ecclesia" or Church is all about. It is fellowship in prayer with one another. We are formed to be part of God's family and none of us can fulfill God's purposes isolated and by ourselves removed from the fellowship of the church. Our alone we are as dying "embers" cut off from the sacred fire of fellowship which gives warmth and light.
It is a fact that if an organ is somehow severed from its body, it will shrivel and die. It cannot exist on its own, and neither can we. Disconnected and cut off from the life blood of our faith, our spiritual life will wither and eventually cease to exist. This is why the fist symptom of spiritual decline is usually inconsistent or infrequent attendance at worship services and the life enhancing gatherings of fellow believers.
Isolation into the self...into the I...me...mine, cuts off the oxygen supply line that is provided in community. We become isolated; in a sense surround ourselves with "mirrors". All we see is ourselves. When we are connected to a community, we surround ourselves with windows. We look through a window, but at a mirror.
We look in a mirror to see how we look, but we look through a window to see how others are. "Mirror people" look at themselves a great deal. "Window people" look beyond themselves at others. They are open to enjoy fellowship, shared lives and growth, which can be encouraged in a loving community.
Whatever your faith, community or denomination, join your brothers and sisters in church, temple or mosque and experience the warmth and light of the living fire of belonging.