We are in the Season of Epiphany, when we recall to mind the Magi who followed a star to bring gifts, in whom the nations symbolically responded to the revelation of Jesus’ coming into the world.
To be community is to reflect God’s love-motivated activity, however imperfectly, and whether we are aware that this is what we are doing or not. That activity is apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, and instructive (love is expressed through word and action) and community is (certainly never less than) the sum of such interactions.
To be a faith community is to intentionally seek to offer that activity back to God, for the good of others.
Consider the Magi. We do not know how and where they came together, but we do know that they form, or are formed into, community:
they are apostolic, sent out representatives, going out from their familiar place on a journey that has a clear purpose but an unknown goal – sometimes described as walking by faith and not by sight;
they are prophetic, humbling themselves to an alternative future – and in so doing discovering a previously-unknown freedom, and with it the impossibility of going back by the same route (represented by Herod);
they are evangelistic, bearing good news – even if not everyone welcomes their news, even if the news that God has moved to gather-in a people from among the peoples is rejected by Herod (who, being half-Jew half-Gentile, is perfectly positioned to respond to this purpose but chooses not to);
they are pastoral, bearing practical gifts that meet material need (gold), nurture the hope-full agency of intercession in a dark world (incense), and provide for the painful reality of death in our experience of life (myrrh);
and they are instructive, firstly because they are lifelong learners themselves, studying both spoken creation and written revelation, but also in their example, treasured in Mary’s heart and surely recounted to her son on many occasions through his childhood.