Luke 4: 16-22
At this point in the story, Jesus was a relatively unknown guy. He’d just come back from forty days in the desert. We meet up with him as he walks back to Galilee into the town of Nazareth. He’s the hometown boy, little Jesus of Nazareth from down the street. He walks into the synagogue on the Sabbath – a pretty standard custom for his community. He unrolls the scroll to the prophet Isaiah and starts reading: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
He rolls up the scroll and sits down. Then – get this – he preaches a one-sentence sermon that sets the whole place buzzing. He says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
They heap praise on him. He’s the hometown hero. He’s the greatest thing since unleavened bread.
The One who came to preach this word from Isaiah is the same who came to bring good news to the poor, set the oppressed and the captives free, give sight to the blind, and proclaim the year of God’s favor. His life, death, and resurrection did precisely all of these things.
And yet we are fully aware of many in our world whose stories still tell of terrible poverty, oppression, and captivity.
I’m writing the final draft of this on Wednesday, December 14th and I’m reminded so vividly looking around the news that we live in that space in-between – that we live in a world where God’s kingdom has begun and is already unfolding, but is still not yet completed.
Earlier this month, I rejoiced with my brothers and sisters as the Army Corps of Engineers denied a construction permit for a key section of the Dakota Access Pipeline. And we saw it. We got a glimpse at God’s reign already unfolding – a piece of good news to those under the heel of the Empire. It was a beautiful moment of “already!”
And then, this week, we have seen increasingly horrifying news coming from the streets of Syria. We are seeing genocide happen in real time and grieve with sighs too deep for words, “but not yet” – although we may use different language to describe it.*
We don’t have to look far to see the “not yet.” It’s everywhere. It’s there every time justice is denied because of power systems that disproportionately advantage white men. It’s there every time the church – the very body of Christ – props up systems of white supremacy. It’s there every time there is a violation against women, immigrants, refugees, those without sustainable housing or food for their families and those in power collectively shrug their shoulders. We see the “not yet” all around us.
So maybe our call this Advent is to remember and point out the ways that God is already breaking into this world. Maybe our call is to participate in that breaking in by keeping Christ in Christmas: by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, caring for the sick, and throwing our doors wide open to the immigrant, refugee, and the stranger.
This Advent, may we be blessed in our anticipation of the coming of Jesus. And may we also be blessed with eyes to see the ways in which he’s been here the whole time.
*Earlier drafts of this reflection included such “not yet” examples as the mistrial of Michael Slager, the continued neglect of clean water for Flint, Michigan, horrifying testimony at the trial of Dylann Roof, the election of Donald Trump, the proliferation of boastful racism, misogyny, Islamophobia… let’s face it, we could go on for days.
Eric Clapp is an ELCA pastor in the lakes country of Minnesota. He’s perpetually chasing the perfect cup of coffee and is a firm believer that the one with the most books wins. Catch up with him on Twitter (@eric_clapp) or at ericclapp.com.
Advent 2 - Matthew 3:1-12
Expect the Unexpected
I wonder - what made people follow John the Baptist to the river to be baptized?
What makes a person listen to a person like John? What makes a person stop what they are doing and say “This is what I need. He’s right. I need to be cleansed. I need to be baptized. I need to be ready because the Kingdom of God is near.”
I suspect that there was a second thought… “The Kingdom of God is near… and I really, really need the Kingdom of God to be near.”
Not unlike me. And maybe you.
I find myself longing for the Kingdom of God to be nearer to me in both time and space.
Although, if I’m honest, I’m not sure what the Kingdom of God will look like. It’s been a long time since the Fall of 1999 when I sat in Catherine Keller’s classroom at Drew and worked through eschatological theologies. But it has not been a long time since I cried, “Come, Lord Jesus.” It was mere hours ago, and it was in response to some stressor at my job. I’m not sure exactly what I’m asking for, but I have hope. I have hope that it will be different.
I have hope that whatever the Kingdom of God is, it will be different than this world we have now. I have big hopes and little hopes - no more migraine headaches, no more poverty and disease. No more people fleeing their homes because of war or fire. No more children having no safe place to sleep, no more women afraid to leave their partners because of an inevitable violent consequence. I have so many hopes.
I wonder if I might have a kinship with the people who followed John the Baptist to the river. What were their hopes, what future did they believe in so fervently that they believed they had a role to play and the first step was to go to the river to repent and be cleansed?
Then, of course, I must ask myself - what voice am I hearing in this time when I long for the Kin-dom of God? (I don’t know what it will look like, but I embrace Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz’s assertion that “when the fullness of God becomes a day-to-day reality in the world at large, we will all be sisters and brothers--kin to each other.”¹
I hear the voices of modern mystics and prophets, to be sure, calling me to service. Of practical and public and constructive theologians who are creating the frameworks for asking crucial questions about how our theologies create (for better and worse) the systems by which our institutions frame their work.
I also hear the voice of John the Baptist, telling me “Repent.”
Telling. Me. Repent.
This is unexpected.
And I do not like it.
I need to hear it. I know I do, because when I hear it, I think, “Not me. I don’t need to repent. OTHER people need to repent. I’m good. I’m progressive. Liberal. Queer. Other people need to repent.”
And I’m wrong. (Repent of non-repenting attitude. How meta.)
I need to repent, and not just of systemic -isms, of which I am surely I participant and of what I must repent.
But I also must repent of this idea that has taken hold in my brain that I do not have a role to play in the making of the kin-dom. I rely too often on OTHER people to do the work of preparing the way and making paths straight because I, too often, do not believe enough in myself and what I can do. There are people who can physically do more than I can, limited at times by physical illness that strikes unexpectedly. They can show up to protests, rallies and marches. I cannot. But I can speak. I can have conversations. I can be the pastor my friends and family count on me to be. I can participate more fully in my faith communities - both local and online. I can encourage those others who are doing more physical work. I can be both gracious and grateful.
I will repent of this idea that I am less than a beautiful, amazing creation of the Divine that has the stuff of stars in her. I will listen to John the Baptist, I will repent, I will remember the vows of my baptism, declare what I believe, resist evil, seek and serve God, strive for justice.
With God’s help,² I will repent and prepare the way, actively anticipating and participating in the Kin-dom of God.
¹Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz’, "Solidarity: Love of Neighbor in the 1980s," in Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside, eds. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite and Mary Potter Engel (San Francisco: Harper, 1990), 304.
² Baptismal Covenant | The Episcopal Church
Regina Heater (@reckshow) is a self-avowed and practicing ecumenist who loves hearing and sharing stories of how we live into the Questions of life. Find her on Twitter @reckshow and on Facebook at facebook.com/LivingMysteria.
I suck at waiting for things. I want gifts opened (whether I’m giving or receiving) as soon as possible. The joy of anticipation is often lost on me. I can certainly blame some of that on my ADHD - the moment is where I want to be. So Advent is a bit of a struggle for me; I get the idea of waiting and anticipating the Messiah, but I am not at all actually good at living in that anticipation. I keep finding myself peeking ahead to Christmas and the payoff: God among us.
The reality of a God amongst his people is hardly something I can separate from my understanding of faith as a midwest, cradle-Lutheran, church nerd. A consequence of that understanding is that, without effort, I struggle to process the idea of being a person without God; the concept of an absent God is practically foreign to me which makes Advent a weird thing to fully hop in to.
When I struggle to connect to a traditional understanding of something, I try to find a method that works for me. This allows me to still participate in the communal life of the church.
In order to find something to anticipate and wait for during Advent, I’ve shifted my focus the last few years. I don’t try to find a longing and waiting for God to enter the world amongst his people. Instead, I focus on my longing on the church.
Not as Savior or Messiah
As agent of justice.
As distributor of love.
As giver of mercy and grace.
To then place my waiting on the church requires me to remember the words from Isaiah’s fourth chapter:
3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
These verses are the words that frame our understanding of Advent. They aren’t words of patience or passivity; they are words of action. The prophet does not call us to tell of a future that we’ll someday inherit and Jesus will be pretty stoked. We are called to change the world and the church now. To be actually doing something in the interim - not saying “someday this church might be.”
In Advent, I hear the prophets calling us to disrupt the the world, the church, and ourselves - to give in to the chaos Christ calls and drags us into - rather than buying into promises of privilege and security. The church I hear Jesus describe (taking care of the hungry, thirsty, stranger, prisoner - focusing on the least among us) requires an intentional effort. A church in our image worries about making itself feel better, safer and more comfortable; it creates itself if we don’t intentionally avoid it.
Disrupting the world means not being afraid of losing my privilege or angering people by pointing out how systems that benefit me harm others. To me, this is the truest way to demonstrate trust and hope in God: that by giving my benefit so others might be closer to justice and equality, God will continue to provide.
So I wait. But I don’t wait simply hoping the world changes; I have to engage in an active anticipation, seeking to help create the world and church Christ calls us to. Actively working towards a world and church that values the experience of all people isn’t a small task. But Jesus never said it would be.
Ray Gentry @raygentrythe4th is a guitar playing Worship Director from South Dakota and an ELCA Lutheran.
I don’t know about you, but I have family members who voted for Trump.
Actually, I don’t know this for sure, because we don’t talk about politics. We have learned, over the years, that politics, religion — any subject that could cause a fight — is pretty much off limits.
I love my family. Some of them I had not seen in over a decade until two months ago when my sister got married. She invited everyone, on both sides of the family, and pretty much everyone who was healthy enough to travel showed up.
The Rev. Sara Shisler Goff @revshiz priest, writer, artist, activist, human being. co-founder of @theslateproject. Works at listeninghearts.org.
"For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline"--2 Timothy 1:7
The night before his crucifixion and death, Jesus sat around a table and broke bread with his disciples. During the course of the meal, Jesus gets up, takes the towel wrapped around his waist and begins to wash the feet of all those gathered including even Judas who will betray him. Jesus' actions the night before his death always catch me dead in my tracks because despite knowing that Judas will betray him, Jesus still chooses to reach out, wash Judas' feet and love him in the midst of it all.
This morning, I woke up with the stark reality that the world is not the world I hoped we were moving towards. In fact, today I have to be honest I am grieving; grieving for my friends of color, for my LGBTQ friends, for my Muslim and Jewish friends, and for all those who woke up this morning full of fear; a fear that I more than anything want to take away. For now it seems that all I can do is promise to take the log out of my own eye and then show that log to my white privileged friends.
I live in one of the reddest states in this country (which means that there is work yet to be done). And yet yesterday I went to the polls to vote for the candidate that I could put my trust in. I went to be a voice not an echo. I went for all those I love who deserve to walk around in this world not crippled with fear for themselves and those they love. I went for the women in my life who have taught me what it means to truly "love my neighbors as I love myself." I went for my mom, my sister, my friend's daughters and all the women in my life.
"Holy Fire," by Charis Psallo.
And yet today, I realize that my vote wasn't enough because I didn't do enough. Everything is and will be okay for me. But that reality is not what my POC, LGBTQ, Muslim, and Jewish friends woke up to this morning. The most important thing for us to do right now is simply to sit down, shut up and listen (and I mean truly listen--listen without excuses, agendas, or comebacks) Listen to the people voicing experiences as a person of color, a person with a different sexual orientation or a person on the margins of society.
Today, more than ever, I am filled with a holy fire; a holy fire that calls me to live out "diakonia" (a Greek word for service) for all God's people. I heard that call from the very moment I saw how others treated my own mother because of the stigma associated with her bipolar disorder. I heard that call when I sat on our front porch step the night my sister asked me why her LGBTQ friend was being bullied for who he is. That holy fire has been lit in my heart and soul for ALL those on the margins. And that holy fire calls me to live out these words from Micah 6:8 "to do justice. Love kindness/mercy. And walk humbly with our God."
But I am still full of many questions and concerns. As the body of Christ, we are called to love all! As the body of Christ, we are called to see those outcasts who are on the outside of our gates like Lazarus! As the body of Christ, we are called to advocated for those who are different than us. As the body of Christ, we are called to sit down and shut up when those on the margins of society are speaking! The truth is, that as the body of Christ, our work is just beginning. So from today forward, I'm choosing to pull up a chair, sit down and LISTEN whenever my friends--who are people of color, LGBTQ, Muslim or Jewish--speak because now more than ever, we need to hear what they have to say.
Tara Ulrich (@diakonia78) is a single ELCA Lutheran girl called to the ministry of Word and Service who loves the prairies of ND! Jesus-Follower/Author/Sister/Friend. She blogs at prayingontheprairie.blogspot.com
I’m not into bully pulpits. I’ve been preaching for over a decade, and I am not interested in cramming my own views down a (mostly) silent gathering’s collective throat.
And. I am absolutely interested in proclaiming the unapologetic views of a certain radical Savior from first-century Palestine — especially from a pulpit.
However, since waxing political in Christian worship is, in my opinion, crass — whether it’s a church in my late grandfather’s Catholic denomination claiming in its newsletter that to vote Democrat is to be doomed to hell, or “Christian Left” organizations pushing the idea that voting for Democrats is voting for “salvation” — my pulpit today will be this @Medium. (Ha.)
When I say “voting biblical values,” it’s unfortunately likely to be caught up in a specific, conservative, evangelical/fundamentalist Christian way. So.
Voting biblical values isn’t an exclusive trait of the “Religious Right” (who, after betting everything on moral “purity,” has now hitched itself with the polar opposite of any decent measure of morality). One hopes their pious charade has seen its last rodeo, but I digress.
Voting biblical values means more than abortion and marriage equality.
Voting biblical values means recognizing that those in power — regardless of political persuasion — must be held accountable and challenged by those us who are trying to follow Jesus.
Voting biblical values means taking the biblical narrative and its focus seriously — and not simply mixing and matching verses to create some sort of pious political parsing.
So. This means that the current Democratic president’s increase in drone strikes and the current Democratic presidential nominee’s hawkish views must be scrutinized.
I don’t need to go through the extensive litany for the Republican candidate. My friend Matt Gierke did, however, and it’s absolutely instructive.
Others have whispered of echoes of 1930s Germany. And while that might be extreme, one thing is for sure — the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in sacrificing everything in order to attempt a failed assassination, would not have been on the side of fear (as a Bonhoeffer biographer and, apparently, born-again Christian charlatan has insanely argued).
Regardless, I don’t speak out against the GOP nominee bcause of my own political views (which are many and various). I speak up about the nature of our political experiment on the eve of the 2016 election because of a different political view. A biblical one.
I can’t help it — as a person caught up in the real, radical, and raw movement started by Jesus, the Holy Bible is one of my guides. In the words of the late, great Marcus Borg:
Inhospitality is a grave sin, bringing God’s judgment and wrath.•
God’s people are called to remember their former slavery in Egypt, and, thus, to not oppress the immigrant among them — and, in fact, to treat immigrants as nothing less than citizens. §
According to the second creation story, God commands human beings to take care and responsibility in being stewards of that creation.∞
The “fear of the Lord” is intimately connected with both a quest for true justice concerning those on the margins — and civil disobedience.ª
The arrogant will be humbled; the proud will be ashamed; the rich will be sent away empty; the powerful will be torn down from their thrones. †
Weapons of violence will be transformed into tools of peace.º
Women are made in the image of God, just like men. ¶
The wide spectrum of gender and its diverse norms are radically welcomed and holy in God’s sight. Μ
The holy and divine work of God (through Jesus) is good news to the poor; release to the captives; and liberation to the oppressed. Π
What will be truly judged is our actions towards the “least of these” — how we treat those in our midst who are hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, sick, or in prison is how we treat Jesus himself. Ω
The cries of those who have been cheated, oppressed, and have labored in vain under rich overlords “have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” ∫
As Jon Stewart recently said after sharing his public Twitter feud with the GOP nominee, “vote wisely, my friends.”
As Jesus said repeatedly to his followers who often laughably missed the point: “Let this sink into your ears…” œ
Will we, as Christians, listen?
• Genesis 19:1–29; Ezekiel 16:49; Matthew 10:15; Luke 10:12
§ Leviticus 19:33
∞ Genesis 2:15
ª Exodus 1:15–21
† Luke 1:46–55
º Isaiah 2:4
¶ Genesis 1:27
µ Isaiah 56:4–5; Acts 8:26–40
π Luke 4:16–19
Ω Matthew 25:31–46
∫ James 5:1–4
œ Luke 9:43
Jason Chesnut @crazypastor | jesus-follower | anti-racist | feminist | aspiring theologian | ordained (not online) pastor | founded @ANKOSfilms | restless creative | #BlackLivesMatter
Something happened on Thursday night, October 27, 2016. The #SlateSpeak community showed up - much like they always do - glad to be in community and ready to dive into another great conversation. As I prepared for my role as facilitator of the conversation, it became very clear to me that the hour long twitter chat would be an exercise in creating a virtual safe space. The topic of the night was shame, something we rarely talk about yet something most people experience at some point in their life. I realize that the goal was not just to get people talking; it was to nurture an atmosphere that invited people to lay down their burdens and experience relief from the all encompassing, suffocating, life-taking culture of shame that pervades our lives.
We explored the following questions during our hour long chat:
The responses blew me away. People shared deeply personal experiences and the conversation moved at a rapid pace. It was hard keeping up with everything that was shared. I felt like that floodgates had been opened and experiences of pain, heartbreak and trauma came pouring out. We could have just shared stories throughout the night and it would have only touched the tip of the iceberg.
Shame has been something I’ve wondered about for a long time. Thanks to Dr. Brené Brown, a shame researcher out of the University of Houston, conversations about the impact of shame are taking place in public spheres. She has not only written about her research, but has also presented on the topic on various platforms. I believe that Dr. Brown is changing our culture in that she’s naming a problem, explaining why it’s devastating, letting people know that they are not alone and providing a solution. While I’m glad that this work is being done, it hurts my heart that communities of faith still seem to be off limits. They seem to be places this topic is not explored in ways that holistic healing and transformation. I wonder if its because there is a correlation between many people’s shame and issues around sex, sexuality, and sexual abuse - all things that are taboo within many faith traditions. What ends up happening is that many of us lead divided lives, which continues the cycle of secrecy and shame. Instead of our faith traditions providing healing, they become another place where we wear masks that keep us bound by fear and keep us away from liberation.
So what’s the solution? Well, I believe that shame loses its power when it is moved out of the darkness. The author Glennon Doyle Melton often talks about the power we give shame and other life-taking ways of being. When we shine a light on the dark places in our lives, they lose their power. Faith communities have a responsibility to be bearers of Good News; of all that is life giving and eradicates anything that would seek to thwart God’s promise of abundant life. This means that we have to deconstruct our biblical hermeneutics and theological positioning if it does anything to perpetuate a culture of shame. We have not practice confession and repentance of the ways that we have tried to silence voices and experiences that speak of things that bring discomfort. We have to create traditions of lamentation that welcome people in to share of their deepest pain and struggle. We also have to model vulnerability so that we create open doors for people to lean into their own vulnerability, which can open hearts, minds and spirits up to the possibility of holistic healing.
I believe that a major role of leaders today is to speak up and out against anything that is life taking and death dealing. I believe that shame is one of those things and if we want people to live full lives and experience liberation, we have to be willing to take the first step to cast out the evil that is shame.
Rozella Haydée White is the Houston City Director for Mission Year and the founder and principal consultant of RHW Consulting. Rozella’s primary goal in life is to accompany people as they figure out how to live a meaningful life by embracing the fullness of who they are. She is desperately seeking justice, mercy, humility and love. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
This morning Sara Shisler Goff reflections on the social media flurry surrounding Standing Rock and how "checking-in" can actually make a difference here.
When the Slate Project started we didn’t know what to call ourselves. A friend suggested “the Slate Project” from the idea of “a clean slate.” When someone uses the phrase “clean slate” they are usually referring to a relationship and they are saying that something in that relationship needs to change; something needs to be “cleaned off the slate.” But the relationship, the fundamental underlying relationship is of such importance, that even though there is something that drastically needs to change, the relationship is still very much worth saving.
The relationship between God and humanity and the relationships between humans that are grounded in the knowledge and love of God are the relationships that ground the project of being the church-- a project that is very much worth saving, at least I think so. Those of us who are a part of the Slate Project have decided we are going to stick with the “project” of being church, because we believe in it; because we have experienced Jesus.
So no matter how far we walk through the valley of the shadow of the death of the institution as we know it, we will not say, “the hell with this,” and throw up our hands and walk way, because it is never a lost cause. God has given us the perpetual clean slate. God always gives us another chance. As Michael Curry, presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, always says, "God always meets us where we are, but God never intends to leave us there."
The question, “What if we had a clean slate?” is not a hypothetical one. It is an exercise in claiming our theological inheritance. We have been given a clean slate. Asking this question allows us to get out of our own way-- it gives us the psychological and emotional space and the freedom to imagine what could be. It takes out of the equation all the stuff that says what can’t be and it says just focus on what could be.
What if you had a clean slate? What would that mean for you? What if you had a clean slate for your ministry? What if the community where you serve had a clean slate for being the incarnation of the Body of Christ that God is calling it to be?
Asking these questions and dwelling in the possibilities it creates is a way to exercise our theological imaginations and open ourselves up to receiving a vision of all that could be.
We must also ask ourselves, "What is it that needs to be cleaned off our slate?" Or to think about it another way, "What is it that is keeping is us from 'walking the talk'?" The church is really good at “talking the talk.” Sometimes we even “walk the walk.” But we have work to do “walking the talk.” We preach a good message. Living that good message is a life-long journey. What is getting in our way?
Obviously, the “clean slate” is a metaphor. The only One who can give us a clean slate and "wipe" our slate clean is God. That is what redemption is, that is what forgiveness is, that is what grace is. We are given a clean slate. We are a clean slate. That happens in God’s time-- taking place now and forever in the Eternal Now.
In our time, we would be fools to think that we could just wipe the slate clean.
This is just the beginning of our work. This is just the beginning of a process of discernment that we spiral through again and again throughout our lives.
The greatest gift we can give ourselves is the willingness to be changed and the courage to let it all go, whatever it is, that is keeping us from becoming who God is calling us to be. Whatever is keeping us from the fullness and the wholeness of relationships with God, ourselves, each other and all of creation—let it go! That is what this whole church thing is all about.
I believe somewhere inside of ourselves, we know what we need to do. We know who we are. We know how to be the church. We just forget. Or we choose not to do it, because moment by moment is extraordinarily hard. The call to follow Jesus is a radical and risky one, and I don’t know about you, but I am not all that inclined to be radical or take risks.
At some point, everybody fails. Peter failed, Paul failed, Judas really failed. The problem isn’t so much that the church is full of sinners, that is kind of how it is supposed to be. The problem is the church is full people who can’t even see or admit our sin. I could be wrong, but I think this is the real reason people are leaving the church. It is not because they don’t long for God or community. It is not because they don’t want to do good and change the world and make a difference and follow love. It is because they can see through us. They can see that we are broken; our relationships are broken. And if we can see it, we are not admitting it.
It is my opinion it is not our worship styles, or our music choices, or even whether we have a good website or good Facebook presence that determines whether our church will succeed in the twenty-first century. Trust me, all of those things matter but they are secondary to whether we are a community where people feel loved, where they experience God’s love through us, and where everyone is honestly and openly struggling to follow Jesus together.
At the end of the day, it is all about relationships. The greatest commandment wasn’t fill buildings full of people. The greatest commandment wasn’t make Episcopalians or Lutherans or Methodists or Catholics. The greatest commandment is Love God, and Love your neighbor as yourself. Follow the way Jesus did it and bring other people along with you. That is what it means to be the church. The rest is details.
Adapted from a presentation given by the Rev. Sara Shisler Goff to the clergy of the Diocese of Maryland October 10, 2016 at their annual clergy conference.
Not that far into my ordained life I began to feel a very intense longing for an experience of ministry that was different from the one that I was having.
When I began to flesh out this feeling a bit more, I realized what I wanted was for the church where I ministered and served to be more like the church I needed and I wanted to be a part of.
In other words, I wanted my church to be a place where my relationships with others were rooted and grounded in love.
And I’m not saying that this was never the case, but it was too often not the case.
I wanted to feel known and seen.
I wanted to be understood and affirmed for who I was.
I wanted honesty and transparency.
I wanted open and honest communication.
I wanted support and authenticity.
I wanted genuine, shared leadership.
I wanted to be able to be courageous and vulnerable without the fear of retribution or the fear of being knocked down.
I wanted all those things that we all want in our church in and our workplace.
But it was more than just wanting them, I wanted to know why they were not there. It really upset me when they were not there.
The more that I think about this idea of the “future of the church,” and the “reimagining of the church,” the more I am convinced and convicted that when we stay focused on structures and methods and models for doing church and strategic plans and all the different ways that we are trying to "do" church better, and make church more “successful,” we are missing the deeper disturbance of the Spirit.
Those structures and methods and models and strategic plans, they matter and there is work to do be done on that level.
But there is a deeper undoing that needs to happen. I am experiencing this undoing in myself and I am hearing about it and seeing it in others with whom I am in relationship with.
Collectively we are so worried about our church dying and our declining attendance and the unsustainability of the project of being church the way that we have set it up (and think it has to be) that we are not even aware that this death we are going through could possibly a good thing.
If all these people were not leaving our churches we wouldn’t be aware that there was a problem.
Although, in my experience, we often misdiagnosing the problem.
I don’t think we need to reimagine our structures, or reimagined how to do church, at least not primarily.
I think we need to reimagine and reclaim our identity as a death and resurrection people.
In the death of "institutional" way of being church that we are experiencing, we are being invited to become who we truly are--
a people who are never finished changing,
a people who are always being made new,
a people whose identity is always found in losing their lives so God might save them,
a people who are completely and utterly oriented toward Love.
We are still infants when it comes to truly knowing what it means to love-- the love the way God loves.
The work that the church is being called to do in this moment is completely and totally relational.
Which I see as very good news.