The Ancient Catholic Church

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I am committed to this thing called ‘ecumenism’. It’s a funny word, I know, and it has multiple meanings depending on the context one hears it. In it’s simplest form, for me, ecumenism is referring to any inter-denominational movement towards unity or concerted cooperation among Christian denominations, including Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. I’m not here to define clearly my view of ecumenism, which would be a good post for another day. As I have thought and prayed and connected outside of theological ‘tribes’ that I’m usually comfortable with, I have wrestled with what the word “catholic” means, and particularly, what did it originally mean when referring to the church.

Justo González, in his fantastic work of retelling The Story of Christianity (volume I), ends his 8th chapter with a small closing entitled, “The Ancient Catholic Church”. The context of the chapter is a discussion of the 2nd and 3rd century church’s “deposit of the faith”, which would be how the church would refute false testimonies about their lifestyle, their doctrine, and their traditions. Creeds, the canon of Scripture, and the apostolic succession were all a part of determining “the rule of faith” for followers of Jesus.

González mentions that the first time the phrase “Catholic church” is used among Christians, it was used to identify Christians in the 2nd century apart from Gnostics and Marcionites (google the meaning of those sects if you’re curious). The Catholic church was not only the church that was connected to apostolic successors (Christians who were discipled by an apostle in the 1st century or by a disciple of someone who was an apostle; see the first comment from Matt Marino for a brief background of the episcopal collegiality and why apostolic succession was so important in their apologetic), but it was also the church that was connected to the network of bishops or church leaders who desired to stay true to the rule of faith and who were approved as godly leaders by apostolic successors.

Many people may think of the word catholic as referring to the Roman Catholic church, and some creedal Protestants and Orthodox would understand the word catholic to mean “universal” in terms of being the “one” church of God. However, the ancient church in the 2nd century first used the word catholic to mean “according to the whole”, or “according to all the bishops and church leaders” who were interconnected by creeds, apostolic succession, and the canon of Scripture, to preserve the truth of the gospel.

González goes on to say that the ancient church understood this title to refer to “both its universality and the inclusiveness of the witness on which it stood… the total witness of all the apostles and all the evangelists.” This “Catholicity” among the church would be it’s claim to a true witness of Christ Jesus and his gospel. This was what kept the teaching of the person and divinity of Christ truthful, or orthodox, or catholic. 

The irony of this story is that after many centuries of church growth and polity, arguments and discussions about what the word catholic really meant began to be centered on “the person and authority of a single apostle–Peter”, more so than the authority “according to the whole”.

Now I’m not here to pick on any Catholic forms of authority, but I wanted to tell this story to draw our attention back to the ancient church’s desire to hear the collective voice of the whole, which provided a type of shared leadership that formed organically before it was institutionalized in the 4th century.

There is much we can learn from the ancient, or the first Catholic church, and their desire to have a collective voice together, protected by creeds, apostolic successors, and Scripture. There is much division among the body of Christ today, and there is no one answer, but there are on ramps to this movement for us today.

One on ramp that I am reminded of today is that we need to work really hard in each city to connect the whole body as much as we are able to, and begin dialogues and prayer gatherings, trusting once again the “forgotten” God of the Protestants, the Holy Spirit, to be the one to preserve the purity of the church and for Christian leaders stop living in fear of “going down the slippery slope” of universalism or theological liberalism if they were to embrace those who differ from them theologically.

God preserves his church and his people. We are to be so utterly confident in that truth that we can be free to reach across tribal boundaries and trust that Jesus’ people are in more corners of our cities than we ever imagined, and that if we were to be courageous enough to go to those places and extend a hand of friendship, that Jesus’ prayer in John 17 would begin to reverse some of the curse we see in modern day Christendom.

Ecumenism is an important endeavor for the bride of Christ, and for many, it will mean that you may lose friends and favor among some of your “Christian” circles. So be it. Be courageous and confident in the sovereignty of God and the Lordship of Jesus the Christ, to begin friendships and gatherings with those who claim to follow Jesus. Give God’s Spirit a chance to surprise you and sift through the junk of all of differing theologies.

I will close with the words of Pope Francis at a vespers prayer in St. Paul (Rome) last Sunday: “To plumb the depths of the mystery of God, we need one another, we need to encounter one another, and to challenge one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who harmonizes diversities and overcomes conflicts.”

Lessons From The Early Church: A Person, Not a Form

Lessons From The Early Church: A Person, Not a Form

The first century church has much to teach us followers of Jesus in the twenty-first century, not in the way of copying forms or methods, but as a way of peering into the heart of this movement which is still moving today. One notable lesson for us is that they did not seem as concerned as we do today with the “form” of the church. The idea of church structure seemed to occupy very little brain or heart space. Plans for how the building should look or what the stage should be decorated as bore little weight in the hearts and minds of our fore-fathers and mothers.

Indeed, the One they followed, Christ Jesus, did not leave a blueprint for the church, for the building or the form of her gatherings. I guess the question/statement to be made is, “Why would he? It’s his workmanship, not ours.” He has said, “I will build my Church,” and gave no builders manual, codes, or forms for its development.

So, from he heart of the One who is followed, the first century believers were more concerned with the proclamation of that One person, than the building of an institution or method of “doing” church. As they declared and displayed the person of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, things began to take shape, and in many different shapes they formed, from context to context, city to city, culture to culture. As Christ built, they observed, learned, and applied within their particular geographic locale.

The early church took lessons from Jesus, lessons that shaped this unstoppable movement. In a series of posts to come, I will share small lessons from Jesus that I have gleaned from as I observe the gospels and the early church.

Ramblings On Being the Church

When talking about church over the last decade, it has been popular to use the phrase “missional church”, and with that, there are probably thousands of meanings. Many people see a hipster church, with indie rock worship, a funny, cool looking, gospel-centered preacher, and then give that church the title, “missional”. This is misleading, as if looking cool and fitting in with pop culture is what it means to be missional. It may come with it in some ways, but this is not “missional” in and of itself.

At best, the word “missional” describes not a “specific activity” of the church but “the very essence and identity” of the church as it participates in God’s mission.

“Mission” (John 20:21) reminds us that the church was created to be oriented to the world, existing for the sake of others. Cross-cultural missionaries of the past few centuries were sent with a task that was primarily not for themselves but for the sake of those to whom they were sent. Thus, to describe the church as “missional” is to define the entire Christian community as a “BODY”, sent into the world, existing not for itself but to bring good news to the world. This is our identity.

The Church According to our Generation
We do not historically see the church in this light. In fact, the church that we see and speak of is very disconnected from this kind of talk when we get right down to the reality of how we’ve treated it. The forms of church we see today, in many ways, is not like what the church was meant to be, and the purpose of our existence as God’s people has been radically lost since Genesis 12 (a blessed family, so that it can be a blessing to all families, forming one family under Christ).

Church as a Building
Many people in our generation sees the church as a building. If the church is a building, then we are consumers. If we are consumers, then church becomes a vendor of religious goods and services, and we go and we pick out what works best for us. We treat the church much like a grocery store. We go to pick out the kind of fruit we like, we search through the bananas to find the bundle that fits our liking. We pick through all the cereals (and this is a chore these days!) to find the one that will best satisfy our ever so picky taste buds.

And the whole time we are shopping at the grocery store as consumers, we are trying to find the biggest bargain for ourselves. We want the biggest bang for our buck, with as little loss or sacrifice as possible. So we come to church, or shop for churches, and think, “What style is gonna work best for me.” “What products does this church have that will make me happy and feel like it’s worthy of my time and money.” “If this church won’t give me what I want, then I won’t give my money to it.” “I’m not gonna stay because the deal’s weren’t paying off for me anymore.”; and our motives behind all that we do at church, or what we look for in a church, is backwards.

We are out for our best interest and we have lost sight of the fact that we are part of the body (family) of Christ that exists for the world, not for our comforts. If the church is a building, then we are consumers.

Church as a Business
Another way that many people in our culture view church is through the lens of being a profitable business that can be self-sustainable. The problem with this view, much like the “building” view, is that if the church is a business, then we are competitors.

Many church leaders tend to operate the church as a business, and most leadership conversations and meetings end up being very “business-like”, discussing business matters, financial matters, building issues, legal issues, etc… Staff meetings end up looking the same as business meetings except for a short devotion or prayer before the machine is tended to. We are meeting to make our church better than other churches, to be more marketable, more attractive, to grow more, and to make more money to do more things, to be more effective for the kingdom (or maybe we should say, “for our little kingdoms”).

When we give our money, we give our money to the business, not the church. If the church is a business, then we all become managers with different opinions, and we all fight and bicker as to the way we think things should be managed; complaints aren’t because the church isn’t on mission, but because the business end of the church isn’t operating the way we think it should.

When we talk about “our church”, we talk about how our church does this, and our church did that, our church has this program and this focus. We compare ourselves to other churches and we have this sort of arrogance about the way we do church, and we think that other churches are missing it, as if somehow, this is fulfilling God’s will.

This business view creates within the church, a DNA of people who are jockeying for position, authority, power, and we are competitors within the church, not to mention it destroys the unity between believers that Christ prayed for in John 17. We’re so worried about our small unbiblical view of church, that we are completely missing out on the rest of the world who is perishing. We’ve let culture dictate the church’s mission!

John Stackhouse, a professor at Regent College in Vancouver, cites several historical instances when the church has allowed itself to be shaped by its surrounding culture, including the church in Nazi Germany, the South African church under apartheid, the Rwandan church in their long period of tribal violence, as well as the Western church in modern and postmodern secular culture. In each of these examples, the church forgot its biblical role and instead adopted the cultures’ identity and forms.

The church must not be a building or a business. These world views must be destroyed, and we must beg Jesus to once again restore to us the belief and the conviction to live out the belief, that the Church is one body, one family of God, working to reconcile the warring factions of this one family.

Church as a Body
In the book of Ephesians, the word body is sṓma in Greek, which means “an organized whole made up of parts and members; a whole, an aggregate, a collective mass.” In other words, the whole body of Christians collectively, of which Christ is the head. This word shows up in the book of Ephesians (1:22-23; 2:15-16; 3:6; 4:4, 11-12, 16, 25; 5:23, 30) (see also Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 10:17; 12:13, 27; Col. 1:18, 24; 2:19; 3:15).

There is a very striking illustration in 1 Corinthians 6:15 regarding the body of Christ (the Church), where Paul says, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” If you are a disciple of Christ, then you are a “member”, joined as a part of the body (family) of Christ, and the parts of your body are parts of Christ’s body.

We’re not Christians, we’re ‘family members’ joined by and with Christ, with a mission to make His beauty and worth known over every earthly treasure.

Jesus Christ has a body here on earth. It is called the Church. She has legs to go to the places that Jesus would go. She has arms to do the work that Jesus would do. She has mouths to say the things that Jesus would say. She has backs to carry the burdens that Jesus would carry.

Paul said that his aim in life was that “the life of Jesus might be made known to others in his mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11). In other words, his aim is that his body might make Christ’s body real to the world.

Necessary Corrections
Jesus calls out this kind of religious short-sightedness in Matthew 23:23c: “…you neglect the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done without neglecting the others.”

It seems we as a church in all our forms have often neglected the weightier matters of God:
We’ve been far too concerned with success in a way that Jesus wasn’t…
We’ve been far too concerned with entertainment and comfort in a way that Jesus wasn’t…
We’ve been far too concerned with being the best in a way that Jesus wasn’t…
We’ve been far too competitive in a way that Jesus wasn’t…
We’ve been far too promiscuous in a way that Jesus wasn’t…

The late Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, writes this in 1967 with her message being addressed to the church: “As to the Church, where else shall we go, except to the Bride of Christ, one flesh with Christ? Though she is a harlot at times, she is our Mother.” “In Peace Is My Bitterness Most Bitter”, The Catholic Worker, January 1967, 1, 2.

So it is there I will leave you. The body is the bride. She is messy. She is adulterous. She does not act like a bride of a king at many times. She is entangled in affairs that makes the groom cringe. She is in many ways lost. She needs to run back to Christ. She needs a conversion of the heart, not a reform of methods or an updated approach to being “more missional”.

So how do we not duplicate history? Where do we start as a people of God? Maybe you’re having self dialogue saying this: “I’m convicted and I want to live out my identity of being the body of Christ, but I don’t know how.” I want to close today with 3 identities that the church must adopt if it wants to be the true church of the 21st century, the visible body of Christ:

Body Life as Family
1 Peter 2:9-10 is one of many verse in scripture that teaches us that we are all children of God who care for each other as a family. We are God’s chosen people – His family – set apart to live in such a way that the world would know what He is like. Through faith in Jesus we believe we are children of God, and brothers and sisters with each other.

As God’s family, we see it as our obligation to personally care for the needs of one another, both physically and spiritually. We disciple, nurture and hold each other accountable to gospel life together. We also labor to reconcile the broken and warring factions of this family across denominational lines. This is the messy and sometimes dysfunctional part of the church that makes relationships hard, but that’s what family does (Gen. 12:1-3; John 1:12-13; Rom. 12:10-16).

Body Life as Servants
Luke 4:18-20 reminds us of the words of God through the prophet Isaiah (Is. 61:1-2), as Jesus quotes this passage among a very religious church culture, claiming that it points to Him and what He came to do. We are servants of Jesus who serve Him by serving others around us as He did. Being fully God and fully man, Jesus took on the posture of a servant. He gave his life, even unto death, so that others could experience salvation, peace and restoration. Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves…” All those who follow Jesus are called to serve in the same humility.

For us, this means joyfully submitting to Jesus as Lord, to the leaders He has placed over us, and to each other as we also serve whomever God brings into our lives. We do whatever He leads us to do, whenever He tells us to, and wherever He wants us to do it. As servants of Jesus, we give a foretaste of what the eternal city will be like under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ; our humility points to his ultimate humility, our servant hood is led by the Servant of all, and our sacrifice is motivated by the One who gave up his life for us (Matt. 20:25-28; 25:31-46; John 13:1-17; Phil. 2:5-11; 1 Peter 2:16).

Body Life as Ambassadors
In Galatians 3:8 we are reminded of the gospel that was preached before Christ moved into our neighborhood (see. Gen. 12:1-3), the very gospel that we too are to take into all the world; to proclaim and display. We are sent by the Spirit to restore all things to God through Jesus Christ through lives that proclaim and display our homeland. God sent Jesus to Earth to take on human form and live within our world, to show us what his world is like. He worked, ate and interacted among the people; living in such a way that those around Him could see and experience what God and his kingdom was truly like. Jesus came so that all people, places and things could be restored to a right relationship with God. In the same way, we believe we are ambassadors sent by God’s Spirit, into our culture to restore all things to God through Jesus, by living and proclaiming what it looks like to be a citizen of heaven on earth (John 1:14; 20:21; Colossians 1:19; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21).

As ambassadors, we are sent to share the truth about God’s love for the world through the sending of His Son. The Spirit has been given to us so that we can know what is true of Jesus (John 14:26; 16:12-15), live fruitful lives as evidence of God’s power to change (Gal. 5:16-24), be empowered to share it boldly (Acts 4:23-31) and trust that He is the One who convicts the heart and gives new life (John 3:4-8). All fruitful work of an ambassador is a result of being people who are born of, filled with, and led by the Spirit. (these three points have been adapted from Soma Communities in Tacoma)

As we labor to gather as the body of Christ in new forms, may we not lose sight of the mission of Jesus’ body, gathered to gather as one family, to serve and to display what God’s kingdom citizenship is like and to raise up worshipers of Jesus.

The Longing of Advent

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Advent. The arrival. The coming of someone or something important. The longing of a hero to come to the rescue. This is what’s behind the 4 weeks prior to Christmas Day. Longing for rescue. Celebrating the Christ child and what this means for humanity.

All these things we long for have a history of why we long for them. Why would anyone be waiting for the Messiah in Israel? Why would the princess long for the prince to come rescue her? Why would you want a hero to come. One word: distress.

We long for rescue when we’re in distress. Suffering creates longing. When things are broken and we can’t fix them, we call someone who can; or long for someone who has the skills to show up. Distress is at the heart of Advent then.

To properly celebrate Advent and enjoy the Christmas season to its fullest isn’t to think of only the happy things and joyful moments of life, but it’s also to remember the cry of our hearts that reminds us why we long for the Advent of the Christ child. The heart of Advent is a longing to be relieved from our distress, a waiting for the day when all things are as they were always supposed to be. Shalom. Universal peace and flourishing.

On this side of redemptive history, the longing for Advent is marked by distress, whether it’s distress in our lives, or in the lives of those we grieve with. So as Christmas Eve approaches, I’m reminded that I’m not just eager for the joy of a savior, but for the joy of a savior who is coming to alleviate the distress in my life and those I share the earth with. His arrival is a sign of this.

From the most unlikely of circumstances, as prophets foretold, God comes to earth to begin the salvation process by the means of a helpless babe, born to a refugee teen mom who’s never known a man, and a father who’s family tree is littered with promise and scandal, and the only family tree from the days of old that included women… brave, scandalous, promiscuous women, who God called righteous for their faith.

This is the savior who has come. He has turned the world upside down, he has included those who others exclude, touches the unclean, is friends with the sinners, and undoes the broken religious system by creating a community of people who long for him, for justice, for goodness, and who will do whatever it takes to follow him in a world of pain and suffering. This is the hope of Advent as well. That in our solidarity of suffering and longing… hope arrives and it does not disappoint.

Merry Christmas and may the peace of the Christ child be a fresh new reality for you this year.

Divine Dancers

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I don’t know about you, but in my family, when a good song comes on, we’ve got a team of dancers hitting the living room floor pulling out their best moves, not caring what anyone else is thinking… just going for it! Every now and then, we all look to one person and we join in on their dance, and start dancing like them; a similar dance, but not exactly, because we all have different movements.

This dance party can go on for over an hour sometimes, all of us laughing and enjoying the spirit of joining one another in their favorite dance style. Dancing causes movement. Dancing creates joy and life.

As I’ve been reflecting on this during advent this season, I’ve been stuck reading the passage in Mark 1:9-11, where Jesus is going down to the Jordan River to get baptized by Johnny B (John the Baptist). This is a beautiful intro to Mark’s account of Jesus, as the sinless savior is identifying with sinful man, and in this humble and gracious identification, God’s Spirit (the dove in this narrative) descends upon God’s Son (Jesus) as God the Father speaks words that thrust us into his heart for all humanity:

“This is my son, the beloved. He brings great joy to me.” There it is. A divine dance. God in all of his mysterious nature honors and brags on one another. Jesus being obedient to identify with sinners. The Spirit anointing Jesus as the One who Israel and all of humanity is groaning for. The Father showing love and affection for his child. Could this be a dance, or at least a beautiful song. If God’s love is song as Switchfoot gives imagery to, then a good song demands dancing!

God’s dance, a divine dance if you will, gives humanity a glimpse into the Father’s heart from the beginning. This takes me back to the unknown days before anything was, God was, and if you’d indulge with my imagination for a moment, I would like to retell the story of God briefly through the lens of a “dance party”.

How It All Began

God the Father, before all of creation, dancing to the jam of the Son. The Son, dancing to the jam of the Spirit… and so on. And then out of this beautiful, divine jam dance and jam session, angels were created to dance to the jams of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Then all of a sudden, something shocking happened. The angels who reflected like a mirror, the beauty of this tri-dance jam session, were asked by this mysterious three person dance machine, to pick their favorite jam and this divine Trinity starting dancing with them to their favorite jam.

The joining in of joy and praise bust forth with mighty arrays of lights beaming and bouncing off of each creature, and in the midst of this creative jam session, the Trinity couldn’t contain their beauty and grace, and began sharing their mojo…

  • The universe was created and the dance party got better…
  • God spoke light into existence and the dance party got better…
  • God separated the heavens from the earth and the dance party got better…
  • God gathered all the waters of the earth together and gave them their boundaries and the dance party got better…
  • God brought texture to the land with plant and trees and all kinds of seeds and the dance party got better…
  • God made a sun to govern the day and a moon to govern the night and the dance party got better…
  • God filled the waters with life and wonder and the land with beautiful and crazy creatures and the dance party got better…

But the angles were wondering how crazy this party was gonna get?!

Then, the invitations went out and a whole new people group joined the dance… humans starting joining in, and their dance was goofy and funky, unlike any other dance the angels had ever seen, but they were cool with it! The dance party was a success; it was very good!

How It all Fell Apart

But something terrible happened. The humans started making the dance about themselves and taking credit for the dance moves that they learned from their divine company. The even started to control how others were dancing and were claiming authority over this type of dance and over that type of dance. This broke God the Father’s heart, as his purpose in this dance party was always to give everything he had to humanity… for their joy, not for coercive power.

Spiritual destruction took place, and the rest of God’s story is a glimpse into the the Father’s heart to redeem humanity and their dance. Everything in God’s story after this moment, points to spiritual transformation as the deepest and most profound human need. And as one follows the story of Scripture throughout the Old Testament approaching the New, you would understand why this transformation requires death.

Human effort after human effort; failed attempts after failed attempts, we begin to see that humanity is in desperate need of someone greater than themselves.

Broken promises, false gods, oppressing the poor, raping the earth, objectifying women, mocking the humble, making themselves kings, neglecting to love the immigrants in their land… This is the story of Israel in the Old Testament, and if we’re honest with ourselves, this is our story as well. Humanity needs something much greater then what we have to offer.

How It Is Being Put Back Together

Enter Jesus. Born from a Virgin teen mom and a refugee, coming from a land where nothing good has come from it; you can call it the wrong side of the tracks. He humbly learns as a child, becomes a construction worker, and end up teaching like no other teacher of his day. He stands opposed to the religious system, he casts out demons, he moves into the neighborhood of the marginalized, he touches the filthy ones, he feeds the poor, he heals the sick, and he welcomes the sinner and rejected.

Jesus is utterly different than us, but becomes like us for our sake;

– so our dance doesn’t suck anymore

– so we can begin dancing again with joy

– so our dancing can produce justice and goodness

– so our dances begin to include others who dance slightly differently than us, or even radically different.

– so our dance actually moves us and isn’t centered around us

Jesus redeems our off beat dancing. He realizes he must die in our place to give us his dance moves, because we have utterly lost our step. So he freely and lovingly offers his life for ours. He is tortured for the crimes we have committed. He is rejected for the very things we were too afraid to stand for. He dies a cursed death in the place we were supposed to die.

But there’s something utterly unique about this man. Jesus, the God of all creation, made himself flesh, moved into our neighborhood, took our death upon himself, because he knew that ‘death for him’ was ‘life for us’. Death would destroy us, but this Jesus can destroy death. He puts to death the power of death once and for all in his death for us fallen dancers, and restore our dancing abilities.

How Our Future Is Secure

His resurrection means life after death for his followers too. It also means that the life of his followers dance like his life. They are no longer dancing in their own power, but are now dancing in the power of His Spirit.

You see, this is a new kind of dance the world knows not of, until Jesus’ followers begin busting out in their divine dance and reveal that their dance is not about themselves, but about their King. All of Jesus’ people believe Jesus is who he says he is by faith, and at that moment, something magical happens in their lives. Death produces life.

For a seed to give birth to life, first it must die, then, and that point of death, a dance busts out of the tomb that had become a womb, and gives birth to something beautiful and life changing. All the dancers who become Jesus’ people are now remade in such a way that death no longer is the final blow. Instead, death is entrance into life the way it was always supposed to be, before it all fell apart.

The Mission of Worship

You see, this dance talk is what worship is. It’s very beautiful, but very dangerous as well. For if we begin to worship in the complete sense, the necessary outcome is a life transformed to do justice, offer mercy, and be humble, like Jesus.

Worship is dangerous. It means you may make a fool of yourself dancing, you may even die because of your dance, but you are no longer defined by anything except what Jesus thinks of your dance.

We see this danger in worship throughout the narrative of Scripture we just breezed over. Think about these words and phrases and what they meant to the characters in Scripture:

Build a boat

Leave your land

Sacrifice your wealth

Wilderness

Exodus

Stand before giants

Exile

Lions den

Fiery furnace

A throne high and lifted up

A helpless babe in a manger

Take no provisions with you

Lose your life to gain life

Persecution

Flogging

Crucifixion

Resurrection

Witness

Take up your cross

Martyr

Marginalized

Dispersion

Worship is utterly dangerous. It moves us. It will be what we are about for all eternity. For any of you who have a boring idea of what heaven may be like, let me burst your bubble. It will not be full of short, pudgy, half naked angels sitting on clouds playing harps (unless you really like that kind of thing… in that case, indulge!).

It will be party full of “American Idol” type singers and “So You Think You Can Dance” type dancers… and they will be you and I, cutting it up, always full of fresh new moves, joining in the dance of others, and never taking the glory from the one who makes the sun shine. The eternal dance party that continually creates beauty, joy, life, and laughter.

I’m convinced that life with Jesus, that following Jesus, allows us to experience glimpses and foretastes of some of that here and now! Jesus does not allow his people stand with him without being moved by him. And Jesus’s movements are dance moves that aren’t controlling or oppressive, but humble and giving. Jesus doesn’t take; He gives.

Jesus also give his people the freedom to join in with others who are dancing differently than them and not judge them or curse them, but dance with them, not to their tune, but to Jesus’ tune. Jesus’ people are free to break out of any dance circle to reveal to everyone that Jesus isn’t part of any dance circle. This dance was meant to be for all, to give life, not to hoard life or brag about having the “right” life, but to display the only way to life with joy and gladness, through humility and suffering, in friendship and community.

Jesus, move us. Change us. Make us legit dancers. Give us courage to act. Grant us grace to rest and listen. Offer your presence to us in fresh new ways. Shape our thoughts. Direct our passions. Create new life. And we will promise to give you all the glory and fame!

An Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat To Justice Everywhere

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This artwork is on the backyard wall of a home facing Roosevelt St. near my home. I drive or walk by it most days, and lately it has spoken much louder to me, of the urgent need for all of humanity to begin looking inward at the injustices that go on everyday, right in front of us, by us, and against us.

It has made me realize that what is going on in Ferguson is a microcosm of what is at war within our hearts and minds. Whatever your analysis of Ferguson is, it would be negligent of all of us to assume that “our” understanding is the “just” view, without taking into consideration all the injustices that take place within injustice. Our story isn;t the only point of view, and we could all spin most stories in certain ways to see the rationale of why people do what they do. But we don’t want to “spin” stories, which means we must be humble enough to step out of our stories and believe that there is truth and reason from the other person’s point of view.

Injustice breeds injustice. Hurt people, hurt people. To say that Ferguson is only a race issue is to ignore all the other injustices. To deny that what’s going on in Ferguson isn’t a race issue is to be ignorant of reality. To step into someones else’s story without a preconceived idea of what to expect is almost impossible, but it’s something we must work towards as neighbors and family members who share this beautiful world.

Maybe we have been guilty of having “single” stories of people and events. Maybe our single story of someone or a people group has become so dominant that we have become part of the injustice against that certain group just by the very nature of not being able to get into their shoes. Maybe our single story has been shaped by news reels and stories of other people from our “tribe”. Maybe our story has been shaped in concrete from snapshots of the worst days of those in the other “tribe”.

I long to get rid of my snapshot judgments and to step into the story of love that allows me to journey in the shoes of those who are different from me, to be a lover of diversity, even if that diversity is offensive to me, or even causes me to rethink the way I view or live within this world.

To be an agent of change, is to be one who accepts responsibility of our thoughts and actions, and I believe if we all begin there, inflammatory moments in our world would at least have more sane people on every side looking inward before arrows are shot outward. Division is dangerous and has ravaged humanity. Looking inward first can give us a clue of the cause of certain divisions and can give us the tools we need to begin rebuilding and reconciling from injustices that go unnoticed day after day.

This is what Jesus gives us the freedom to do. He doesn’t join anyone’s tribe or circle. He doesn’t have to defend any ideology or way of living. He is the way, and his way does not ignore injustice, nor does it exclude people. His way is full of love that pierces through lies and short-sighted worldviews. His way is peace and reconciliation that happens through broken people being accepted by him and freed up to deal with their own junk. Injustice anywhere is a threat to the way of Jesus.