There’s an overused quote by Chesterton that goes something like, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
Let that sink in a moment.
We are in the midst of the Christmas season right now; our annual frenzy of indulgent consumption. According to both popular Christmas carols and the testimony of the Gospels, Jesus’ birth was heralded as the coming Messiah. He was to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy …
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.I)”>
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
This messiah was going to bring peace on earth and good will toward men.
What does that mean? What would peace on earth look like? Our imaginations are dull and we assume that the presence of peace is simply the absence of war or violence. So we think that “his government” is going to be a political enforcement of an absence of war. The rule of this Messiah would take away all weapons.
But that’s not what Jesus did. He came and nothing changed outwardly. The Roman Empire went on about it’s business and at what would be the end of Jesus’ 3 year ministry, crucified him. Giving rise to a secondary frenzy of indulgent consumption (but that’s another story). Jesus did manage to speak a few words that have been handed down to us in the millennia since his birth. He said things like this, “21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21-22)
Read it carefully. Jesus was talking about more than the absence of murder, but the presence of love. We have laws which punish murderers and keep the crime rate low, but law cannot overcome the presence of hate. When we hate someone, we dismiss their humanity, we find reasons to ignore their thoughts and needs by calling them a “fool.” I am chief among sinners in this regard. But there it is. I cannot turn my face away from the idea that when I dismiss someone as a fool, I have morally killed them in my mind.
This brings me back to the Chesterton quote, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
There are many other bits that Jesus threw out in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). I find in my life that I fail those far more often than I succeed. But if I put them all together in a holistic picture of how to live, I find that these bits create a vision of what peace could look like. It would be so much more than the absence of war or violence, but the presence of love. The kind of love which can cast out fear, making violence unnecessary.
Perhaps that prophecy in Isaiah meant not that God would enforce an everlasting peace through government, but that all the humans here would learn to love their enemies without fear, that we would not dismiss another’s humanity, that we would be able to live in peace and harmony with each other, not because of laws, but because our hearts have grown three sizes too large (to quote a more secular source) and we have begun to operate out of abundance, love and harmony. Maybe that is the hope we express every year … that someday soon we will all know peace.
As most of you know by now, LightGirl has been playing hockey since she was 12. To say she loves it is an understatement. If more than 7 days go by in a row in which she is not on the ice, she starts to get a little wiggy.
This year she is playing for a competitive travel team (Tier 1). The coach gave a version of the following to the team parents in a meeting back in June:
“We are a competitive team for this area. But there are a lot stronger teams out there. Put it this way … there are approximately 200 D1 (NCAA top level) scholarships for women hockey players. Of those 200, all but 11 of them usually go to Canadian women. The remaining 11 are spread out amongst all US women hockey players. We are going to play hard and practice hard, but if you really think your daughter is a serious candidate for one of those 11 scholarships, you are in the wrong program. “
My husband told me about this the other day as I wasn’t at the meeting. And I thought about it for a while. He’s right about this program … it’s a good one, but there are many others that are out there and girls who are going to go to a top-rated hockey college will be playing for those other programs … not here in Northern Virginia. He will push this team to do their best, but ultimately, any success these girls accomplish will not be here, but will be because of the lessons they’ve learned here … on the ice. And that’s a good thing.
I thought about this for a while and let it percolate as I thought about the church and the damaging, hurtful ideas I see out there being promoted by people who claim the name of Christ.
I thought to myself that it’s extremely unfortunate that the church does not have anyone from the outside that will be heard to say, “If you think you’re special enough to speak judgement into this or that situation, you’re in the wrong program.” You’re in the wrong place to be making statements about God and what S/He wants or will do or … anything. You … We don’t have the knowledge necessary to make those judgements. We don’t have anyone who can intrude on all the righteousness and self-righteousness to say, “Wait a minute. Stop and think about who you are and what needs to happen here.” What are the real measures of success? And are we chasing the wrong rabbit?
This post is part of the April Synchroblog – What If The Resurrection Was A Hoax? Examining faith in light of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Do you ever think about life (or some part of it) without basic assumptions in place? What would life be like if …. ? I do that with some regularity. It’s a long held habit. I remember my mother saying to me, “I’m not playing the ‘What if’ game with you anymore,” in sheer frustration over the questions I was peppering her with. So this month’s synchroblog seemed a natural for me … what if the Resurrection was a hoax?
When I was young in the faith, I heard a number of men in various formats and venues arguing the reality of the Resurrection. They made arguments such a Chuck Colson’s; a man will not die for a lie and 12 men will not die for that lie. He based his argument on the response of the co-conspirators in Nixon’s Watergate crisis. It’s a valid argument and has some basis in human nature. But I always wondered why these impassioned arguments mattered. They were fun to listen to because I love a good, well-reasoned argument, but from my very limited perspective it always seemed that the Resurrection of Jesus was a matter of faith – “1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)
Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see.
I’ve held on to that definition for a long time. And when I read another recent article about faith some things clicked into place.
Thomas Jefferson is held as an icon of American spirit. He had a firm hand in writing many of our founding documents. He was an early ambassador and third president. He is at the front of many lists about our nation’s founding. Among his things was eventually found a Bible with the New Testament heavily edited with a razor. He cut out all of the stuff that did not come straight from Jesus. A modern wordsmith, using a razor in place of our cut and paste system, he wanted to know if the teachings of Jesus could stand on their own without the miracles and other “distractions.” His conclusion was that it could. That Jesus’ teachings were in and of themselves a divine miracle. And that following them would take divine inspiration for giving up the trappings of this world (power, wealth, fame) in hopes of the next.
Andrew Sullivan, writing for The Daily Beast, describes it:
Jefferson feared that the alternative to a Christianity founded on “internal persuasion” was a revival of the brutal, bloody wars of religion that America was founded to escape. And what he grasped in his sacrilegious mutilation of a sacred text was the core simplicity of Jesus’ message of renunciation. He believed that stripped of the doctrines of the Incarnation, Resurrection, and the various miracles, the message of Jesus was the deepest miracle. And that it was radically simple. It was explained in stories, parables, and metaphors—not theological doctrines of immense complexity. It was proven by his willingness to submit himself to an unjustified execution. The cross itself was not the point; nor was the intense physical suffering he endured. The point was how he conducted himself through it all—calm, loving, accepting, radically surrendering even the basic control of his own body and telling us that this was what it means to truly transcend our world and be with God. Jesus, like Francis, was a homeless person, as were his closest followers. He possessed nothing—and thereby everything.
So when I come down to the bottom of everything, I come to this. Jesus embodied love to the point of death. His Resurrection (and Incarnation) are necessary to the holistic theology of Jesus. But these miracles do not inform how we should live. They are celebrated as part and parcel of our theology, but how we live our daily lives in a reflection of the Love Divine becomes the path through which we realize God’s Kingdom come and His will be done … here on earth (as it is in heaven).
This is a Synchroblog post … the following people also made outstanding contributions to thinking about Christian life without the Resurrection.
A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, ‘What does love mean?” The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined See what you think:
‘When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.’ – Rebecca- age 8
‘When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.’ – Billy – age 4
‘Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.’ – Karl – age 5
‘Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.’ – Chrissy – age 6
‘Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.’ – Terri – age 4
‘Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.’ – Danny – age 7
‘Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss’ – Emily – age 8
‘Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.’ – Bobby – age 7
‘If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,’ – Nikka – age 6
‘Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.’ – Noelle – age 7
‘Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.’ – Tommy – age 6
‘During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.’ – Cindy – age 8
‘My mommy loves me more than anybody You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.’ – Clare – age 6
‘Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.’ – Elaine-age 5
‘Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.’ – Chris – age 7
‘Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.’ – Mary Ann – age 4
‘I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.’ – Lauren – age 4
‘When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.’ – Karen – age 7
‘Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn’t think it’s gross.’ – Mark – age 6
‘You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.’ – Jessica – age 8
The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to th e neighbor, the little boy said, ‘Nothing, I just helped him cry’
In the spirit of coming to Jesus as little children, take a shot at it in the comments – what is love to you? Where do you see the concept we call love manifest in action in your life? Or … which one of these was special to you and why?
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I received urgent word via Brother Maynard this evening that Rick Meigs (aka Blind Beggar) has been critically injured in a hit and run motorcycle accident today:
I wanted to let everyone know that Rick Meigs was at a Motorcycle rally at Hell’s Canyon and was clipped by a vehicle which crossed the line and clipped him head on. It was a hit and run.
He is in critical condition with two collapsed lungs and a ruptured spleen. His wife Fran is in Texas and trying to get to Baker City before they fly him to Boise.
Please be praying for him and his family.
He had really been looking forward to this rally and trip to Idaho to visit friends and ride his best beloved bike.
In whatever fashion that you pray, please do so with fervor and often in the days to come. Rick has poured his life out in prayer for others over the years and now is a good time for us to help him.
I probably have better things to think about, but it bugs me when the newspapers glorify religious leaders like Mark Driscoll. The recent NYTimes article about him, his church and his ministry, entitled, “Who Would Jesus Smack Down?” by Molly Worthen was well-written and fairly balanced. But it bugs me because it’s not an accurate depiction of people of faith. There are so very many of us in churches across denominational lines who care deeply for their neighbors, love justice, seek mercy and walk humbly after God; and do those things in very quantifiable ways. They’re not all sitting in plush theatres listening to a self-aggrandizing hack talk about having sex and calling it love.
I wish the papers would pick up more articles about people stepping up to the plate for the little guy. For the underdog. People like Roy Bourgeois … a now excommunicated Catholic priest.
You may wonder what Father Roy did to get himself excommunicated. It was likely pretty bad. Given the news lately about Catholic priests lately, it would not be unlikely for you to think that he had abused boys in his care. But you would be wrong. Father Roy Bourgeois did the unthinkable. He participated in the ordination of women on August 8 and refused to recant. You can read parts of his letter here (ht Christy Lambertson, Dry Bones Dance). It’s quite beautiful.
So I’m thinking today about leadership and transformation into something more Christ-like. What those leaders might look like and where they might be found.
If you’d like to participate in a discussion about this and other thought-provoking articles that people read this week, come join Missional Tribe and our discussion group, Wisdom Lingers. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Or maybe two or three.
I made a decision last year sometime. I don’t remember when it was. But I remembered it this year and I had time to make good on it. The decision was that I would make our Christmas gifts for extended family members. I think the decision began sometime around “Make Something Day,” but by then it was too late for me. Especially since I had 35 people in my house that day. And it took me … uh … weeks to recuperate.
This year is different. We’re not having a big, ornate Thanksgiving. The day after LightHusband is taking the LightKids to go play paintball with one of his compatriots at work. Most importantly, we are not painting the house all autumn. On the other hand … this means that the house is all wrecky. And making me slightly insane.
So I have spent the last several days pouring through tutorial websites, blogs and magazines finding cool things to make for my nieces, nephews, siblings, in-laws, out-laws, etc. There was a condition though. I had to have most, if not all, of the materials on hand for the project. And it has to be fairly simple. In other words, these gifts have to be made out of stuff I already have and not take too much time or energy. There will be a few things I have to purchase (like some plastic mesh to make a fabric garage & doll house). But for the most part, I will be able to make these gifts with stuff I already have.
Then I spent an inordinate amount of time organizing myself. Making lists of what I would make and in what order. I’m using Evernote to keep track of all the websites and people/gift recipients, and I’m using Things to keep track of the when and how. If you’re also interested in making your gifts this year, start with Sew Mama Sew. It’s a group blog and they’re doing gift tutorials every day this month that link to other blogs, which (of course, branch out to others. For even more inspiration, they did this last year, so if you click on “November 2007” you get even more ideas. Everyday they have gift ideas centered on a particular theme (such as teachers, or books or cold weather) with tutorials, gifts to buy that are handmade, patterns to buy and then homemade food recipes (like homemade marshmallows! yum!).
Mission number two involves the hockey team (what else?). We’re traveling out of state about 12 days before Christmas to play a couple of games. This involves a hotel stay. I usually organize some activity while we’re in the hotel to prevent large groups of young women from roaming the corridors in the evening teeheeing and making too much noise for the other guests. The girls don’t seem to understand that no one else wants to hear them. So for this trip I’m organizing dinner out and then a Christmas party back at the hotel. I thought it would be a good idea (based on some discussions last year) if the Christmas party were to involve some sort of charitable activity/donation to a local shelter. So I have to call them this morning and find out what we might be able to do for them in that situation. That’s just an extra wrinkle in my planning/organizing. I’ve found a bunch of fun games for the tween/teen set that can be played in a hotel setting. We’ll be having fun.
Mission number three is to return to my old tradition of making plum pudding this year. I use my Welsh great, great grandmother’s recipe handed down to me by my grandmother. I dropped it for a couple of years because I was having such a difficult time finding suet, among other things. But I think I can find it again this year. So I’ll be making my plum puddings in a couple of weeks. Ready to go for Christmas dinner. YUM!!
UPDATE: Eureka! I found the suet at a small local butcher shop about 7 miles out of town. When giving directions, the man told it was next to some antique shops and he said, “But you have to spend more here than on antiques,” in a gravelly southern accent. I cheerfully assured him I’d rather have some good beef than an antique (never mentioning that this close to DC they’re likely to be overpriced junk in any case). I’m going to pick it up this afternoon. And dig out my grandmother’s recipe to get the rest of the ingredients this weekend.
In all, though, my missions seem to be taking me away from the computer. In addition, I’m trying to do more reading and I have some quilts that are slowly being pieced as well. So if you don’t see me very much around here, don’t worry. I’m still here. Just trying to be faithful to my missions and get them accomplished. You’ll prob’ly see more of me in the New Year. As I stay off the roads while LightGirl learns to drive!!!
This subject has become extremely volatile lately. It’s been bandied about in classrooms, blogs, pubs, buses … everywhere (in fact) that two or more are gathered. Just the other day, a good friend of mine and I were catching up on the phone and she exasperatedly said, “Well, I’m voting pro-life, and that’s that.” She quickly moved to another topic, and left me to wonder, “what does that even mean any more?” I’m not sure I know what “pro-choice” means either, for that matter. So I’ve been doing a lot of sewing and thinking.
Scot McKnight put up a question about the issue of abortion and pro-life vs. pro-choice at Jesus Creed one day a couple of weeks ago. I don’t often comment in a thread there and I have not started a conversation based upon one of his since the early days of my blog. But this one is personal. I’ve spent a long time thinking this one through, for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is that LightGirl now reads my blog and I wanted to have the chance to talk to her before I posted this.
I’ve seen Obama referred to more than one place as a “pro-abortion zealot” and in other places as simply “pro-abortion.” I’ve seen other folks say that they cannot possibly vote for a president who is not pro-life, or who will “kill the innocent.” And I’m genuinely confused by the rhetoric. You see, I have something in common with candidate that gives me a unique perspective on this subject. Both of us are the products of a marriage brought about by our mothers’ pregnancies with us. His parents’ marriage ended in divorce, my parents are still married.
When you know that your mother got married because she was pregnant with you, it challenges any settled conclusion you think you might come to on the issue of abortion. Every time you get to one place or another, you remember your mom and her particular set of circumstances. What if …
Among many things, it decidedly does not make one a “pro-abortion zealot.” I cannot speak for the candidate personally because I do not know him. I can, however, speak for myself. I know that I see the issue as incredibly nuanced and far more filled with shades of gray than with the black or white that most true zealots would like us to believe. In my heart of hearts I have occasionally wondered what might have happened to me, had abortion been legally available to my mother when she discovered her pregnancy in the fall of 1960. But as she is fond of saying to me, “Stop playing the what if game.” 😉 It was not available, and now I’m here … for better or worse (my words, never my mother’s).
This argument, this issue has become incredibly divisive and words have become bombs that are thrown at one another. Witness the exchange between the candidates during the last presidential debate. As Senator Obama reminded us, “no one is pro-abortion.” Even those who are the most ardent supporters of “pro-choice” secretly hope they never have to take advantage of that choice. I would hope that we can all at least agree on that.
I’ve lived on both sides in this war. I marched in one of the largest pro-choice rallies in Washington back in 1989 and carried an ancient “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. My mother, husband and several cousins walked too. I’ve been pro-life as a member of an evangelical church for fourteen years … and written letters to politicians, etc. I’ve supported our local Crisis Pregnancy Center with donations and prayers. But after all of it … I think they’re all wrong.
I want to begin with a reveal of sorts. I have had an abortion.
I could tell you it was the lowest point in my life and I’d been raped or something horrible like that. But it would be a lie. I was engaged to LightHusband and the baby was due about a month after our scheduled wedding. The truth is, I had terrible anger issues at the time. We had no money. There was no money for child care and no money for me to stop working. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I had a baby then I was certain to abuse the child. I was terrified. Horrified. Guilty if I did and guilty if I didn’t.
That all sounds weak and thready now. But at the time, we (LightHusband and I) were in a deep hole with no way out, no one to talk to and nowhere to go. As ridiculous as it sounds, out of wedlock pregnancy is still a stigma in our culture. It is a gross and abject failure of huge proportions for women on so many levels that one cannot bear to acknowledge it.
Many of my friends (regardless of their faith) have had abortions. Others have given up babies for adoption. Some have had the horrible fate to have done both (some as the result of unmarried sex, others as the result of rape or incest). All have gone on to raise families.
My oldest cousin is a woman now in her sixties. When she was in her thirties, she was a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in her town. She had two daughters about my age (early teens at the time) and found herself pregnant with an unplanned pregnancy. It was the source of many uproarious jokes in my family and still is. However, she went on to have that baby, who is now a wonderful woman in her own right.
My point in all of this is that when we engage in the abortion debate, we forget that it’s not about theology, or exegesis or theory … it’s about individual women and men, as well as the babies that everyone wants to hang their hat on. Individual women (and men) who, in a very dark hour, are making a Hobbes choice. There is rarely a good outcome; only frightening and intolerable. Abortion and adoption have long running ramifications that leave scars. Getting married and raising the baby at a young age is a risky choice that only rarely works out well (my parents are a rare exception to that rule). And we all know how well unwed motherhood works. We can wave the Bible around all we want, but until we’re ready to show individual women that they indeed have another way out, it’s all just so much hot air. Or as Paul might have said, a clanging gong.
I’ve changed as the years have gone by. There is too much at stake to use a hatchet, when a scalpel is called for. Or perhaps analogies of cutting implements are insensitive in this instance. Perhaps when all is said and done, we should not be putting our hope in the law. I’ve often thought (as have others much smarter than I) that the law cannot change hearts. Sure, say those of a more conservative bent, but it draws boundaries around behavior. Yep, I agree. However, I began think about about a deeper law and a deeper magic. I began to think about it in terms like this: Jesus said things like “I have come to fulfill the Law.” and “Perfect love drives out fear.”
Before He came, the Jewish law was convoluted and nearly impossible to fill perfectly. Our way to the Father was blocked at almost every turn by jots and tittles. So He sent His Son to fill them all. To make the way straight and give us a way in. His perfect love would straighten things out and we would not have to be afraid anymore of not knowing. And this morning ASBO Jesus posted this which perfectly demonstrates, for me, this issue:
The whole issue is complex, complicated and far too delicate to be left to lawyers and politicians. Nor is it something that can be abolished with laws. Unplanned pregnancies within and without marriage are part of the imperfectness of this world that we live in. We cannot make them stop happening by virtue of changing laws, but our response to them can change through one avenue … love. We can only respond to each of them within the context of an individual relationship. Going after them with the hatchet of the law can only breed contempt, fear and anger. For the life of me, I can’t find those in the Gospel of Jesus. So … mark me, pro-human and pro-relationship. I’ll leave the debate to the zealots.
Sometime during the last week or so, LightBoy came to me with a request for his Halloween costume this year.”I want to be a Blues Brother, Mom.”
It kinda took me by surprise. I had no idea where he came by that idea. I last saw that movie when it was in theaters and I think I was in high school, or maybe in college. Shortly after that there was a conversation dripping in disdain between he and LightGirl concerning the relative importance of the Blues Brothers. It ended with LightBoy reporting confidently, “Well, of course, they’re important! They INVENTED the blues.” I struggled mightily to keep from bursting into laughter at this and decided that it was time for my kids to be initiated into the comedic genius of John Belushi.
So it was that we watched “The Blues Brothers” for Friday’s family movie night. It turned out that in the intervening 25-ish years I’d forgotten quite a bit. No surprise there. It’s still a really funny movie. There’s quite a bit of, um, language in it. But since I was a naive 18 year old when I saw it the first time, I had no idea how many jazz and blues greats had been assembled to make that movie. Or how many blues tunes were in it. It was really amazing from that perspective as well.
Of course, the plot was very, very thin. Jake (John Belushi) gets released from prison. Jake & Elwood (Dan Ackroyd) go to visit the orphanage they were raised in. It is about to be auctioned off for delinquent taxes and is run by nuns, with an aged caretaker (Cab Calloway). Jake & Elwood decide to gather together their band and raise the back taxes. There are plot twists, etc. At every obstacle, Elwood responds, “We’re on a mission from God.” It’s his assurance that they will overcome every hurdle no matter how broad or high. It keeps them focused and on task. Ultimately and hilariously they do prevail, just in front of the police, the US Army, the “American Nazi Party,” and who knows else. The taxes are paid, the orphanage saved, but Jake & Elwood are triumphantly lead away in handcuffs.
I’ve been thinking about the movie quite a bit in the days since we watched it. It was funny, no doubt about it. Elwood’s signature line has been often repeated around our house with great glee and laughter. “We’re on a mission from God.” and it would lead him to some fairly nefarious behavior; behavior that inevitably involved fast cars or other silliness.
I’ve been thinking though, about how often we do that. We all do it. We think we’re on a mission from God; we’ve got righteousness on our side and so we can act with aplomb. Because our ends are right, we will somehow escape the consequences of our behavior. Or it may be that we won’t escape the consequences of our behavior, but those consequences will be worth it, just as they were for Jake & Elwood.
I’ve been wondering though about the detritus that we leave in our wake. If you watch that video (which is sped up and is really a montage), you see what happens when Jake and Elwood become so hyper-focused on getting the tax money to the office on time. The analogy has limits, I’ll admit, but then again, maybe it doesn’t . How many times do we do the same thing? How often do we think that we have to do something, that we cannot entrust a task to someone else and the cars pile up in our wake? All because, “we’re on a mission from God.”
How many times do we think that getting to an end point involves skirting the edges of the law or ethical behavior, maybe even falling over the edge, and that’s alright because, “we’re on a mission from God?” But the cars pile up in our wake.
So the question I’m posing today is this: does being on a “mission from God” excuse one’s behavior? Does being “right” or “correct” trump the commands given by Jesus in Matthew 22? Or is there something in there that will help us do both, that is be correct and be loving at the same time … without having the cars pile up behind us?
So … here it is. Today’s the day. The day of the big synchroblog. The big hitters are writing about this. Fifty of us are writing to define the word “missional.” When Rick sent out his call for this by blog and by e-mail (thank you, Rick), I thought, “Yeah … I do have something to say.” In the intervening weeks though, my scattered thoughts have not gathered themselves.
I am no theologian. I am not trained in exegesis or any of the other long scary unknowable words that people use to make themselves seem smart. I am, at the end of the day, a teacher. And a quilter (I love color) And a story-teller. So I will tell a story and teach a lesson about how I and my family are missional in the suburbs. In our house missional means lawncare … among other things.
It all began with a door to nowhere. Or more precisely, a door to our backyard with a 5 foot drop for a first step. We lived in our house for 3 years with a french door that we could not use because, well, “Watch out for the first step, it’s a lou-lou.” So we had a deck built.
Two guys built it. I think they spoke about 10 words of English between the two of them. Just enough to ask for the bathroom and water when they needed it. We’d go out and admire their workmanship occasionally; they’d smile and nod.
During this time I was caring for a friend’s four children once a week while she and her husband went to marriage counseling. It was the tradition for she and her kids to have dinner with us when the counseling was done. One evening, it happened that the deck makers were also there. We invited them to have dinner with us in the back yard. We’d have eaten in the house, but we had no way to get the grilled meat into the house because of the construction. We set up a plastic banquet table and paper plates. BlazingEwe and her FlamingLambs were here too. The kids ate all over the yard and the grown ups ate together at the table. I remembered about as much Spanish from highschool as they knew English. So we were able to communicate over sticky drumsticks and gooey potato salad. We all ate and smiled until our stomachs and faces were full. It was one of the happiest meals I remember.
We’ve carried on the tradition since then. Whenever people come to work on or around our home, we bring them water or share a meal with them depending on the circumstances. This year, we’ve finally broken down and hired a lawncare service. This has turned out to be a Hispanic man and his sons. We don’t do lawn care with any regularity and our lawn has always been the po’white trash lawn on the block … a certain disgrace to a particular neighbor of ours. It is the elder son who does the talking and negotiating with us. He must be about LightGirl’s age, but sober and sturdy. Responsible, quick and dependable. They come whenever to mow our lawn, if we’re here we pay them, otherwise, they come another time for payment. If we’re here, we take them water. One evening the father was taking a little too long with his part and the sons played joyfully on our trampoline. LightBoy joined them. And the joy was exponential. Our lawn has become beautiful in their capable hands, but more importantly we are slowly building a friendship with them. Our goal is to invite them to a meal soon. To share our hospitality with them.
You see, to me, missional is about giving hope in a world of gray. It’s about smiling at people who routinely wear frowns. I may never have the chance to speak the words of the Gospel to them in my outloud voice. But I can say to my (agnostic) friend when her sense of being gets too tied up in her website, “You are more than that. You are not your website. You are beautiful and created for much more than that.” Help her move beyond despair and into grace.
Missional is about loving my neighbor and that can be expressed in thousands of ways, but the thought that came into my head this morning and will not leave is the verse from Jeremiah that most people use in very different circumstances. Jeremiah 29:11 … “1 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Plans to give hope and a future. You see that’s so often lacking in our world today. Hope … AND a future.
So I speak hope into the lives of the people I know and the people I meet. I try to know them and find the hope that is there. Find the light that leads to the future and together we will walk towards God.
This is part of a synchroblog that has been organized by Blind Beggar (Rick Meigs) that is hoping to clarify and define the term “missional.” I have more than likely just muddied the waters with my craziness here. But these other folks will have done a much better job than I, so please read them:
Cobus Van Wyngaard