The Cost of Community
Blessed are the poor in spirit . . .
So begins the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' great message to everyone with ears to hear. St. Francis of Assisi heard its message and challenged the church and empire of his day by ordering his life around it--giving up his power, wealth and privileges; claiming the poor and powerful alike as his brothers and sisters; and loving Islamic neighbors even as his church and state waged war on them.
Centuries later, Jamie Arpin-Ricci and his friends and neighbors in the new monastic community of Little Flowers in urban Winnipeg likewise heard Jesus' message and ordered their lives around it. This book is Jamie's field report, offering surprising insights about what life together in the spirit of Jesus' teachings offers us, and what it demands of us.
The sermon still rings out today, offering perplexing encouragement and at times daunting challenges to us and our neighbors. Will you hear what Jesus has to say?
"This gentle memoir combines the life of St. Francis with the Sermon on the Mount. The treat to this book is to see how this combination is working itself out in a humble place in Canada; it makes both the Sermon and St. Francis real for us today."
"Following Jesus is not simply about learning a few important lessons that we apply to our lives to make us better people. Through moving stories of hope and failure, The Cost of Community reminds me that following Jesus is both a dangerous and demanding undertaking if we honestly embrace his invitation 'to hear my words and do likewise.'"
"This thought-provoking, challenging and often heart-rending book had a profound impact on me. I heartily recommend it to all followers of Christ who want to be challenged to take their faith more seriously."
"The Cost of Community is more than just a re-examination of a medieval saint who modeled what it means to take Christ's words literally and live them out. It is also a moving record of how some Christians have endeavored to re-embody the Franciscan movement in the twenty-first century. This book deserves two thumbs up from any who read it."
"Jamie Arpin-Ricci lives and writes authentically in conversation with his community, the hard neighborhood he lives in, a thirteenth-century saint and Jesus. I love his humble honesty as he wrestles in that all-important place where ideals and reality meet."
"By interweaving his experience as leader of an inner-city Christian community and the life and experience of Francis of Assisi with recent writing on the Sermon on the Mount, Jamie Arpin-Ricci has succeeded in producing a volume that is both fresh and challenging. It has helped me—and I hope it helps many others—to understand anew what it means not only to hear the words of Jesus but to put them into practice."
"In the middle of holy wars and prosperity preaching, Francis of Assisi said no to a Christianity that had grown sick, and he said yes to Jesus. He heard a little whisper from God say, "Repair my church, which is in ruins." His life is as prophetic today as it was eight hundred years ago. Jamie Arpin-Ricci's book invites you to follow Francis as he follows Jesus—away from the war drums and shopping malls, and into the streets and slums. It is an invitation to live daringly—to love the earth and all God's creatures, to care for the poor and suffering, and to consider the innocence of the lilies and the sparrows. It is an invitation to strip off all the clutter and truly be free."
"Filled with the sweetness of good stories well told and the quietness of an evolving wisdom, The Cost of Community is as appealing as it is informing. Vowed communal living is not for every Christian, but this chronicle about it certainly is."
"If you want to go beyond theological speculation to living out the Sermon on the Mount, then you need to get this book, read it and live it. Jamie Arpin-Ricci weaves together the life of St. Francis, the Little Flowers Community and his own life to help us honestly wrestle through what it means to follow Jesus in our world today. His vulnerability is refreshing, and his life stories are inspiring. If you read this book carefully, and reflect on how Jamie and his faith community are following Jesus, you will soon realize that while the cost of discipleship is great, the cost of nondiscipleship is even greater."
"Get ready to be challenged to live the gospel. Arpin-Ricci aptly exposes the spiritual laziness of Western Christianity and invites us to examine the way we live our faith. With thought-provoking analysis and reflection, Arpin-Ricci illuminates the teachings of Jesus and the life of St. Francis, compelling us to live the way of Christ. Through the lived stories of the Little Flowers Community we are reminded that the way of Christ is the way of the cross—it will cost you everything, most importantly, your very self. You will be simultaneously challenged and encouraged—encouraged that as you give your life away, you will receive a life more abundant and fulfilling than you can imagine. Read and be ready to be transformed."
"The familiar terrain of the Sermon on the Mount yields fresh insights and challenges in this grace-filled book. Wisdom gained from St. Francis and from life in the Little Flowers Community illuminates Jesus' central teachings in ways that help us see clearly their beauty, relevance and possibility."
"Walking in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, Jamie Arpin-Ricci challenges us to stop searching for convenient compromises and interpretive roadblocks when we hear Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Arpin-Ricci understands that if we are to follow in the way of Jesus, we must pay steep costs, but that in dying we will find the community and resurrection life that we all long for."
"With the insight born of experience and a careful reading of the text, Jamie Arpin-Ricci leads us through the Sermon on the Mount and asks us a simple question: are we willing to take what Jesus says seriously? Weaving stories from the life of Saint Francis of Assisi and the life of his own community throughout, Arpin-Ricci holds our feet to the fire with the humility of one who himself continues to wrestle with the implications of taking Jesus at his word."
"Arpin-Ricci masterfully explores the spiritual genius of St. Francis of Assisi, the radical challenge of the Sermon on the Mount and the inspiring yet unvarnished story of a brave community that earths the values that each has to offer. This book could change the landscape of Western Christianity. Highly recommended!"
"Insightful, informative, well-written and more challenging than I wanted. Jamie has written a book that will now sit beside Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship and Watson's Called and Committed to be used often and handed out to those who are serious about following Jesus. I didn't want to put it down."
"This is one of just a handful of books since Tolstoy to take Christ's Sermon on the Mount seriously, suggesting Jesus intended us to live his message rather than finding loopholes around it. Arpin-Ricci's community not only endorses such a reading, they are practitioners who've embodied the Beatitudes and built their house upon the Rock. This is their lived commentary of the words of Christ."
"A fresh and challenging exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, illustrated both from the life of Francis of Assisi and the contemporary experience of an inner-city community in Winnipeg, rooted in the strange but persuasive conviction that Jesus' teaching is to be obeyed rather than admired."
"In each generation there are those who carry on the spirit of Francis of Assisi. God knows that the church needs them! Jamie Arpin-Ricci is one of these, right here and right now, in his life and in this important book."
"Ever thought what it would be like to take the Sermon on the Mount seriously? Francis of Assisi did and today provides inspiration for thousands of contemporary Christians. . . . With an engaging mix of gospel teaching, the witness of Francis of Assisi and the author's own real-life experiences, The Cost of Community chronicles the joys and heartaches of living Jesus? blueprint for holiness—and provides us with the challenge and courage to 'do likewise.'"
"Though the content of this book is solidly grounded in scholarly reflection, there remains an undercurrent of simplicity. It is not preachy in tone; rather, the writing reveals a fundamental stance of humility in the face of the Paschal Mystery."
"Those involved with missional or intentional faith communities, or interested in neomonasticism, may find much to glean from The Cost of Community. However, this book is worth a read if for no other reason than it beckons the reader to consider the implications of the Sermon on the Mount for one's own life."
Foreword by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
1. Setting the Stage
2. Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit
3. Blessed Are the Mourners and the Meek
4. Blessed are the Justice Cravers, the Merciful and the Pure in Heart
5. Blessed Are the Peacemakers and the Persecuted
6. Of Salt, Light and the Law
7. Oaths, Eyes and Enemies
8. Hiding in Plain Sight
9. The Disciple?s Prayer
10. A Confident Kingdom
11. From Judgment to Humility
12. Gates and Fruit
Conclusion: The Wise Builder (Or "Go and Do Likewise")