Community conversation ~ 012109

Sermon Notes for 012509

The community of knowing in common is the seed of our life in this place. ~ Wendell Berry in “At A Country Funeral”

Acts 2: 42 They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer. 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved. (NLT)

Acts 4: 32 All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. 33 And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great favor was upon them all. 34 There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them 35 and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need. 36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. 37 He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles for those in need. (NLT)

Thoughts for conversation –

What feelings are stirred in you as you hear these passages?

List some of the attitudes & behaviors that characterized these first Christians’ shared life:

How are those things present in your life? How are they absent? What might you do now?

How might you illustrate (words, pictures, actions) this story to someone who had never heard it:

        to a child

        to a tean

        to an adult

At a Country Funeral

by Wendell Berry


Now the old ways that have brought us

farther than we remember sink out of sight

as under the treading of many strangers

ignorant of landmarks. Only once in a while

they are cast clear again upon the mind

as at a country funeral where, amid the soft

lights and hothouse flowers, the expensive

solemnity of experts, notes of a polite musician,

persist the usages of old neighborhood.

Friends and kinsmen come and stand and speak,

knowing the extremity they have come to,

one of their own bearing to the earth the last

of his light, his darkness the sun’s definitive mark.

hey stand and think as they stood and thought

when even the gods were different.

And the organ music, though decorous

as for somebody else’s grief, has its source

in the outcry of pain and hope in log churches,

and on naked hillsides by the open grave,

eastward in mountain passes, in tidelands,

and across the sea. How long a time?

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide my

self in Thee. They came, once in time,

in simple loyalty to their dead, and returned

to the world. The fields and the work

remained to be returned to. Now the entrance

of one of the old ones into the Rock

too often means a lifework perished from the land

without inheritor, and the field goes wild

and the house sits and stares. Or it passes

at cash value into the hands of strangers.

Now the old dead wait in the open coffin

for the blood kin to gather, come home

for one last time, to hear old men

whose tongues bear an essential topography

speak memories doomed to die.

But our memory of ourselves, hard earned,

is one of the land’s seeds, as a seed

is the memory of the life of its kind in its place,

to pass on into life the knowledge

of what has died. What we owe the future

is not a new start, for we can only begin

with what has happened. We owe the future

the past, the long knowledge

that is the potency of time to come.

That makes of a man’s grave a rich furrow.

The community of knowing in common is the seed

of our life in this place. There is not only

no better possibility, there is no

other, except for chaos and darkness,

the terrible ground of the only possible

new start. And so as the old die and the young

depart, where shall a man go who keeps

the memories of the dead, except home

again, as one would go back after a burial,

faithful to the fields, lest the dead die

a second and more final death.


Wendell Berry, “At a Country Funeral” from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1998. Published and reprinted by arrangement with Counterpoint Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group ( All rights reserved.

Source: The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (1998).

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