Saturday, June 21, 2014

Looking for the Living Among the Dead: Seeking the Acts 2 Community InAll the Wrong Places

Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn't here, but has been raised.
(From Luke 24:5)

A sense of awe came over everyone. God had performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything.
(From Acts 2: 43-44)

Will we go down in history as a nation with no room for its King?
(From While You Were Sleeping by Casting Crowns)

Bear with me. I am synthesizing from a lot of directions.

In a conversation with a colleague and mentor yesterday, some ideas I have been wrestling with came colliding into one another in one of those moments that reduces me to grateful and passionate tears about God's wisdom, power and movement in the world.

Living near the nation's capital, in a diverse suburb with immigrant families from every corner of creation makes the World Cup a delightful community event. Walking through the grocery store, you see jerseys from everywhere. Bright blocks of  colors and nations names are juxtaposed against varying skin tones, accents, languages. Living in one place, we identify with our nation of origin, our lineage, our heritage, our pride. 

Like many an American, I am guilty of thinking deeply from my own national perspective. Our government, economy, social service systems, military, roadways… surely we are a shining example in so many ways. But recently, I had a revelation about this. I watched kids from a charter school in inner-city Baltimore perform with passion works that they had created while learning about malaria. Drama and dancing and drumming and costuming combined and left me speechless and emotional. These kids are predominantly African-American inner-city kids. These are kids that our traditional public school systems, with their testable curricula, built on a centuries old European sourced ethos, are failing. 

It left me thinking. So many of our neighborhood churches are operating in an outdated model. They live into an expectation that they know just how to take good out into the world to give it away. In the process, we fail to recognize that the other across from us, to whom we think we are giving great love, is also the hands and feet of Christ to us. And they are capable and often willing and often just doing it. They are giving us love right back, and I wonder how often we understand that? And take time to learn from it?

How can we refrain from a designing ways to help people, and instead engage in conversation inviting them to share with us who they are, and how we might work together? How can we refrain from imposing ourselves, our mission, our beliefs, our goodness on people without receiving and learning and changing and growing ourselves?

And all of that thinking made me wonder if perhaps we have been looking for far too long for a Pentecost movement to emerge out of our churches. And in the process, we have missed the places where Pentecost moments are really happening, in places where community exists, a mix of languages and cultures and smells and tastes and colors and flesh that is whirling and spinning and combining and doing good. All while we scratch our heads, and worry about budgets, and the ways we should do things better, the ways we could "help."

It seems we might be blind. We might desperately need to remove the log from our own eye. We might be sleeping through Christ's presence with us.

Lord open her eyes, and take us out of our comfort zones, and open our ears and helpless receive. Help us learn to be in community with others. But the synergy and energy that emerges from loving one another help us turn toward even more people and gain more strength while we receive more grace.

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