in which to explore the simplicity and delicacy of the full God-human community (which includes both male and female) in action. The human community exists foundationally as small group, that is, at least one man and one woman in relationship with God. Three persons were together in the Garden “in the cool of the day” (Gen 3:8). The foundational theological community is man, woman and God together. The complete primal human community is man, woman and God together in the midst of all living and earthly things on the “sixth day.” The human community is given charge over the substance of the earth and over all living things created from days one to five (Gen 1:1–31). Leonard Sweet has affirmed the intimate connection between all of creation and the human community: we are “members of an ecological community encompassing the whole of creation.… We human beings require life around us.… We cannot do without the living world any more than we can do without food or sleep.… With nothing around us, we die.”5
The small group is the base community6 in which men and women can meet God and one another to be, to plan, and to act for the careful nurturing of relationships with created things. This small group is not only a being group for the nurture of persons but an acting group for the benefit of creation. Paul Hanson asserts that this primeval group is the “homestead” for humanity with God on earth.7
Since human community has its origin and center in personal and relational divinity, it is not determined or controlled by cycles of nature or the rhythms of creation. Hanson points out that it is a pagan view of human community that would make it subject to “naturalistic determinism … or the forces of nature.”8 While the human group is interdependent with the things of creation, their existence and purpose is not controlled by the earth. The human group is accountable to God and responsible for its life together within creation. Because it is community in God, it is a community of the Spirit. As Karl Barth suggested, it is community born out of the “Sixth Day” of creation and being beckoned into the “sabbath community” of God in the “Seventh Day.” “The Goal of Creation, and at the same time the beginning of everything that follows, is the event of God’s Sabbath freedom, Sabbath rest and Sabbath joy, in which [humanity] too has been summoned to participate.”9
This is good news for persons or groups who are trapped in biological or astrological prisons. In a postmodern world now affected more by eastern religions like pantheism or Hinduism, where New Age crystals are thought to have an effect upon the life of a gathered group, it is very important to know that the God of creation did not make the success of human community dependent upon rocks or other natural elements. Entering into human community with God is a “movement of release” from the determinism of such naturalistic pagan fates. God is at the center of human community or there is no human community. It may be a collection of animals or zombies, but without God it is not a community of human beings being called into deeper fellowship with the Theos of the universe.10 Human small groups do not look within themselves or around themselves to nature for their meaning and purpose. Human small groups find their purpose only in God who leads them to serve one another and nurture creation with a God-shared knowledge and balance.
Gareth Weldon Icenogle, Biblical Foundations for Small Group Ministry: An Integrative Approach (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).
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