Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’
Why I haven’t looked up the dictionary definition of gazebo until now, I do not know. We’ve been thinking about gazebos for months. I just haven’t felt the need to consult the dictionary, thinking that the significance of this thing lay only in what God wanted to say through it, not in the thing itself. And it is a simple word: it is not from the ancient Greek, not theologically significant, suggests nothing profound in its sound or sense (some in our community simply dislike the word). But when I finally saw the definition this last week, it sent me spinning into a reverie about the nature of grace and revelation.
More than three years ago now, we set out to explore church planting for ourselves, with no expectations except that God could form a group of followers into a community of meaning for our particular time and place.
During our first few years of gathering, we’ve been patient and diligent. We have been diligent about listening to God and following the steps laid out for us. For the longest time this has meant that we’ve been practicing our community faith in such a way that there’s been little evidence of activity. This is where patience comes in! It has been a challenge. Each of us in turn has had the chance to remind the group to be diligent in following through with our chosen way, or to be patient while waiting to see the fruits of our efforts. Go team!
Even better, our hopes that God would respond and lead us have been largely fulfilled. We have a confidence we wouldn’t have otherwise, and we are stronger for it. Our practice during this season has included, almost exclusively, a focused program of prayer and listening to God that has helped to bond us together, and strengthened us as individuals and as a community. Now, we are leaving this season of intense weekly prayer, and moving into a new season.
To lay a little groundwork for a description of what’s next, let me say that I, for one, set out on our journey with the confidence that if we listened to God and were patient and did what we were given to do, that God would “call” us in a way that matched us uniquely. And we have come to that place, where we get to say, “Ahh, yes! That feels right!” We feel like we can serve a unique and needed purpose in this area. It’s sweet to know where we get to stand, and I love how we got here. It feels to me like God has proven that he knows and loves us.
So where have we come to?
Here’s a taste of some of the things we’re hearing from God about what we’re doing here.
These are images created by our youngest of a gazebo, which is a very unique kind of building … not a home, not church, not work, not a Starbucks. An in-between place. What’s it for? What happens there? Here’s one answer.
The chair in the picture below, inside of the Gazebo, is for anyone to sit in “whenever you need to. When you sit in this chair, it’s like you’re right in God.” Sounds nice.
This next picture of a table and chairs is all about “sitting and relaxing” according to the artist. Reminds me of something the Old Prophet Isaiah has said, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
Check out that roof. That’ll be good in a storm.
Stay tuned …
We celebrated the birth of Christ Jesus last night at our meeting with a reading of Mary’s song in Luke (ch 1.39-55 in Greek, with English on-screen), and a participatory candle lighting that slowly illuminated a nativity scene. I resisted the urge to Photoshop the dirty plates and cups out of the above image … because that would make the incarnation less real. To paraphrase: while we were yet unwashed and sloppy, Christ came to live among us.
We shared some art and listened to some of Bruce Cockburn’s beautiful Christmas album. Michael read “thoj” …
kevin asked me to write a poem about humility
which is like asking a speeding freight train
to write a poem about the sound made
by a butterfly’s wings
the oxford american dictionary
defines humilty as
“the quality of having a modest view of one’s importance”
then defines modest as
“viewing one’s abilities or achievments in a humble way”
which means that despite probably having multiple advanced degrees
in english language smartness
they have no clue what humility or modesty means
and hoped that nobody else would notice
discovering this little spinning dance
would normally be all i need
to wind up a good rant about the stupidity
rampant in people who aren’t me
inviting you to join my special club of people
who are above that sort of thing
because we notice it
but i am writing a poem about humility
which pauses the snark express just long enough
for a moment of silence to be heard
it washes over me like a wave,
or am i feeling it echo in my bones
trying to hold this …. thing … long enough
to tell you about it,
an invitiation that has nothing to do
with rising above
if the current holders of the nobel prize for lexicographic ineptitude
at the smartypants oxford american dictionary writing company
got their act together
and wrote an entire volume on humility
it would still be the beat of an insect’s wing
against the waning stillness of morning air
drowned out by the cosmic freight train of humility
infinity just became finite
eternity just appeared now
the creator of space and time
lying in a manger, trying to find his hand
so he can put it in his mouth
Back in January, I put up a post called Mystery, which encoded a short piece of text in a QR code. A QR code is a two-dimensional black and white image that can encode text (vs bar codes which only encode numbers). I gave no explanation for it, just put it out there, wanting to see how much people would work to understand something that was not immediately obvious. Here’s the code again:
If you scan the full-size version of this with a QR reader (apps are available for smart phones, and decoders are available online), the following text would appear:
“Jesus often left things unexplained, yet invites us to pursue understanding. Why would he conceal truth behind cryptic statements? A better question: ‘how hungry are we for the truth?’”
One of the proverbs says “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter” (25.2). There’s an interesting tension in this text. God, who could be understood to hold answers to the great questions of our lives, somehow includes mystery as an aspect of divine glory. God ‘conceals matters’, and that’s apparently one of the great things about God? That feels like a kind of a bummer … but there is some hope in the second half of the text. Somehow human glory (like the best qualities of the best king) is to not be satisfied with mystery, but to go knocking, asking, seeking. We are meant to go after God. We can see God welcoming this kind of trouble throughout scripture. Consider how the epic troublemaker Jacob was allowed to best God in a wrestling match, while demanding a blessing.
The reason why I hid my text in a code was that I wanted to make the point that if I ever say or do things that are incomprehensible, I would want people to come after me … to try and understand (vs. settling for not understanding). I have spent enough time working with people to know that we generally do not try to understand. For example, if a person does something we don’t like, we write them off as the kind of Person That Does Things We Don’t Like … instead of asking them why they make the choices they do.
I’m for a community contract that says we don’t ever leave a mystery unexplored. Especially when the mystery is a person.
(When you have spent enough time thinking about this, visit the follow-on post …)
While hanging out with the gang last night, Person To My Left says, “I used to think I was a _____ –ist, but I’ve been reading the writings of _____, and now I think I’m a _____ –ist”, and went on to describe a little of what that meant, all of which was a bit-too-steep of an onramp to an unfamiliar way of thinking, which is why I can’t remember how to fill in the blanks above. But I was interested, so I made sure we would be able to hear a longer-than-2-minute story about what it means to be a _____ –ist. Then, the Person To My Right says, “I’m pretty sure I’m a _____ –ist“, which was different than the first –ism, regarding which you will just have to trust me, because I can’t remember what the second –ism was either. Into all of this I interjected, because I am a humor-ist, “Hey, our first split!”, by which I meant our first sch-ism. Ha. But Person To My Right, rightly, said what I believe anyway, which is, no, it’s got to be allright for us to have different ists and isms if we’re going to be in community. Yes, amen.
Homogeneity is unsustainable except in isolation. If I wanted to hang out only with people who saw the world just like I do, then I’d have to give up my dream of being a part of a functional community that could legitimately claim the name of Jesus Christ, who invites all kinds to come and empowers all kinds for the work. A homogeneous community can only grow by working to eliminate contrary perspectives, or by fracturing repeatedly. Of course there are ways that communities align naturally along certain lines, and a community that gathers around the life and leading of Jesus will necessarily come to be aligned in many ways, and choose certain important boundary lines.
But the way that people gather around Jesus has always been unique in the world: the idea is that we people are like parts of a body … hands, legs, ears, eyes, and we become powerful and functional only when we come together – like the way my hands are so much more useful connected to my eyes and feet, to pick a couple helpful others. Our place in the Body of Christ, is as parts which cannot survive alone and which are not very productive when in isolation. In this spiritual body, Jesus holds the honor of being the head and as such is the source from which we take life and leading. But while we have this relationship to the head in common, it’s good that we all have really different ways of engaging the world and different purposes in the body. This may seem a simple truth, but in fact it’s very difficult in practice. What holds the dipsarate parts together? Further, what gets them to work together? How do we learn to accept that people with whom we live might have an entirely different way of seeing and speaking into the world? Instead of seeing different as complimentary, we see it as a rebuke against what we are, and we fight.
I’m counting on the fact that the head has the key to alignment, and I can be somewhat ignorant of how it all works together. I figure one thing I can do is regard the other people in my community with the honor due to someone who is learning how to be loved and led by God. This is part of my current three-way attentiveness model (which I just realized I have): attentiveness to the head, attentive to others-in-my-community, and attentiveness to the surrounding world. Each of these could describe any healthy part of my physical body, and also my whole self, inasmuch as I am a part of the body of Christ.
In recent years I have come to appreciate (and depend on) the complimentary and sometimes contrasting perspectives of friends. If it weren’t for them I’d be more cozy in my perspective but less functional in the world. I am both wary of and excited about the twin facts that as the number of people in my community grows, there will be more complexity and, along with that, there will be more functionality.