This is from Michelle Fraser’s wonderful little book: “Love Makes Us Beautiful: a book of blessings”. It’s pressed in on my heart as a New Year’s blessing.
In your moment of stagnancy,
Of boredom and numbness,
May you journey into mystery.
When your feet freeze and your knees lock
In fear of the enveloping fog,
May courage guide you forward
And faith outshine doubt.
May you look evenly at your confusion and apathy
And choose motion over stuckness,
Unknown possibility over known comfort.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the year that was, and about the past in general. My personal history. Our collective history as a community. A pending New Year’s Day will do that.
I think these are two different things: individual and shared memory. After 25 years of marriage, I’ve learned that my wife and I often recall the same events differently. But even though we sometimes see things from different points of view we often share the same emotional response and ascribe the same meaning to these events. Our wedding comes to mind: as she was walking up the aisle, and I was waiting at the front of the church, we saw things from completely different points of view. And yet, our eyes (and our hearts) were fixed on one another.
This is the importance of sharing memory, whether it’s in a family, a friendship, a community or a marriage. It’s more than just filling in the blanks. Sharing our memories connects us to one another. Remembering “re-members” us. It connects our lives, our minds, our hearts to one another.
The word ‘remember’ is used 35 times in the New Testament. In every case it serves to connect God’s people to one another and / or to God. Examining these verses tells me that ‘remembering’ calls us to faithfulness, inspires us to hope and enables us to move forward into the fullness of God’s greatest good for us and our lives. What mires us in the past – what keeps us stuck, unable to move on and move forward – are regret, guilt and shame. For this we need to be forgiven – and to accept that forgiveness as our own.
Thankfully, God has provided that for us.
We will fail, and we will fall. We will make mistakes, and sometimes we will make them with determination and purpose, hurting others. We will also bring joy, life, love and laughter to others. But through it all, as we share our life in community we build a shared memory. If we accept the grace and love of others, and are able to move in healthy ways through the times of hurt and disappointment, we will always be able to ‘re-member’ one another.
Today we talked about gratitude. Not surprising, given that this is Thanksgiving Weekend. We started with a piece of card stock and some colored magic markers. Everyone wrote down 5 things they were thankful for. I was really surprised at the variety of responses.
I was also surprised at how many people’s names were on the card. I guess we have our hearts in the right place. I put ‘coffee’ on the list but I have no idea who the kindred soul is that wrote ‘espresso’. Hola!
We then had a lengthy conversation around the couches about gratitude. And I have to tell you, it was a really, really great morning.
At the end of the day we cut the poster up and everyone took a piece home.
And I’m grateful for you, for this beautiful community, for the way in which Spirit God weaves his love among us. It’s go good to be a part of this.
“Today, as never before, we need communities of welcome; communities that are a sign of peace in a world of war. There is no point in praying for peace in the Middle East, for example, if we are not peace-makers in our own community; if we are not forgiving those in our community who have hurt us or with whom we find it difficult to live. Young people, as well those who are older, are sensitive to this vision of peace. It must continually be announced so that hearts and minds are nourished.”
From “Red Letter Christians”:
The Eucharist gathers us at particular place, with a particular people, to eat particular food(s) together. While we believe theologically that Christ is present at the table with us, the Eucharist is more about what you do than what you believe. The Eucharist is about gathering community and being together. It recognizes that gathering around the table is a sacred act. Our relationships expand from the table outwards into the world, teaching us how to love one another through the lens of table hospitality: as old as time itself, but intentionally sacred. You may have guessed by now that I do not limit the Eucharist to Sunday morning. I believe that all of the foods we eat at our tables are sacred: not through their essential nature, but through the relationships that they represent: relationships between farmers and communities, relationships between food and bodies, food and the earth, and farms and our ecosystem. I believe Christ is present whenever two or more gather in his name.
Something I learned as a cook in a homeless shelter; something I’ve said many, many times before: Everyone hungers for food, companionship and God. The dinner table is the only place where all three of these needs can be met at the same time.
Our next Love Feast is June 17th.
Couple of interesting things that happened on Sunday…
I said hello to someone and asked how they were. They responded, “I’m fine, thanks.” I must have given them a curious glance because they immediately said, “No really – that’s honest, I am.” Been thinking about that for a couple of days now.
One of the comments in the discussion was that we “just don’t have time in our lives to think anymore.” It’s true. And the busier we get the more important it becomes to simply kick back and …think.
And Ian brought pictures of his new-born grandson, Ira. He printed off the pictures on the computer – on 11X17 paper. Proud Poppa? I think so.
I love being a part of this!
“In our faith community, which we sometimes call church and other times just call ‘the grace community,’ we affirm that we are centered in a generous and dynamic Christianity. There are three important words here: centered, generous, and dynamic. In being centered in Christianity, we are affirming that we are more concerned about where we find our center than our edges. Our permeable boundaries allow people to come in and also remind us to be continually engaged with the fullness of a world that is not primarily Christian. In all this, we are superficially perusing everything.”
Nanette Sawyer writing in ‘An Emergent Manifesto of Hope”.
My past experience with ‘church’ was that in order to fully participate one had to become a member. This required first meeting with a pair of church leaders. In that interview one had to come up with the right answers. Those churches were solid at their margins. There were gatekeepers and one had to get past those gatekeepers in order to a have a voice in their church. I’m not saying that’s wrong. I am saying that Third Space has a very different approach, one that reflects Ms. Sawyer’s philosophy, above. We’re very clear on what we believe. We’re centered on the person, teaching and work of Christ, the power and presence of the Spirit, made possible in the grace of God. And being centered means that the margins can be ambiguous, permeable and, sometimes, hard to see. As we engage with and make contributions to the life of our city we won’t look or feel like ‘church’. It may be hard to tell what’s church and what’s art, or music or poetry or… ?
The churches of my past experience have been built like a fortress. Third Space is a village. It’s a different thing.
I was asked today about our values. “What’s the thing you’re willing to die for…” was the question.
The answer to that question is “Love Feast”. Without it, I think, we will slowly but surely die on the vine. I think it’s that important. Without it we could be a ‘learning community’, a party, a group of nice folks meeting every week – we could become almost anything. But the Love Feast recognizes Christ in the midst of our community. And that recognition comes in a context of generosity, sharing food, time and one’s self – as well as Christ. The bread is on a plate, the juice in a coffee cup, we serve one another.
It’s Christ at the center of our community. That’s the thing that, if stripped away, is the death of our community, the end of our life as a ‘church’. What does that look like? I don’t always know. Sometimes it looks like sharing a meal together. Sometimes it looks like a cup of coffee growing cold while you listen to someone pour out their heart. Sometimes it looks like giving a cell phone to someone who has lost theirs Sometimes it looks the heaviness that descends on group of men praying. Sometimes it looks like taking someone to lunch because you know they’re strapped for cash. And the longer I’m a part of this crazy-wonderful, beautiful community the less I think it looks like the perfect sermon. Or a worship band and light show. Or having exactly the right theology. Or just about anything else I might have said, ten years ago.
Love the Lord your God, with everything you’ve got. Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said that this is the greatest commandment, and that the entire law and all the prophets hang on this one commandment. What does that look like in real life? Maybe having Christ and his transforming love at the center of a community looks something like this.
From the website: “This advert for the Guardian‘s open journalism, …imagines how we might cover the story of the Three Little Pigs in print and online. Follow the story from the paper’s front page headline, through a social media discussion and finally to an unexpected conclusion.“
What this powerfully illustrates is just how complex our current social and media context is. It also shows the complexity of the moral issues we grapple with everyday – not to mention the speed at which our world now moves. This is the context in which we now must live out the gospel.
And yet we Christians keep speaking to the world around us as if it’s still the 1950′s. In a hyper-connected world we no longer have a dominant voice in the cultural landscape. We can no longer speak with authority on moral or social issues. We are one voice among the masses now. And we are no longer a voice known to the majority, nor a respected one.
So what do we have to offer our world? The ability to live out one’s spirituality in a life centered within the Spirit-Jesus. The healing that community brings. The hope that another way of life is possible. But in the process of adjusting to this new world, some sacred cows are going to get butchered. We’re fond of saying that in today’s world we need to think like missionaries. Truth is, we need to think like artists and poets, musicians and mystics, like wild-eyed, wet-tongued lovers and those glorious and mad saints who throw stars into the streets at midnight.
We close our eyes to pray for the same reason we close our eyes to kiss. Most people don’t care about the purity of our doctrine or the holiness of our lifestyle. What matters to them is the sacredness and beauty of our shared experience.