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 So many of our neighborhood churches are operating in an outdated model.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.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sabbath Rest

I have been grappling recently with a call to whatever is next. Except the next hasn't shown up. So I guess it feels more like a call to be ready for what's next -- a challenge really about whether I will faithfully respond.

Um...that is kind of exhausting for someone who has worked pretty hard for a lifetime to be in control.

This week was full. Emma's graduation, house guests, a nasty bout of a stomach bug. Annual conference that in some moments felt like home left me a little empty and scared. Then there is the lingering sense that I am called to be faithful without really knowing the shape of that call. I keep thinking that if I find the right process, the right new discipline, the right attitude that the disquiet that has settled in will go away. 

I keep finding myself facing people who, in love, are reflecting my gifts and graces back to me, encouraging me to be faithful, to let go, to be ready.


Today, I am trying to live into this day fully, a day of sabbath rest. I am resting in the mantra that I am enough. I am beloved. I can and will be faithful. These things I know in the clearness of the day:
Community matters.
Loving people matters.
Opening our hearts and ears to one another matters.
The church should a vehicle for all of this.

So here are the words that came to me rest:

You are, beloved child,
  created in My wondrous image
Complete with all you need
To serve this world.

Rest in my arms and know
  that you lack not one thing,
One gift of grace
For the work I call you to.

Drink in mystery around you.
  Don't worry about process, timelines.
Be all mine, faithfully knowing
Your every need is met.

By my hand -- generous and strong,
  confident and sure in you, your purpose,
The one you know deep down in your flesh,
Your heart, your soul -- walk forward.