Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A new thing

A friend recently made the observation that as people of faith, we have often failed to read the story of scripture as a whole, but instead have focused on its individual parts. Those who grew up going to church know the stories of Moses being placed in a basket by his mother, the story of David and Goliath and the story of the paralytic being lowered through a rooftop to be healed by Jesus. I wonder what would happen, though, if we did take a fresh look at the entire story of scripture and allowed the narrative to speak a fresh word to us today.

One theme that emerges when we examine the broader story of scripture is that of restoration. While there are many interruptions along the way, God's activity always seems to be moving forward - - to a promised land, to a future king, to a baby being born, to a day when all things will be made new. I must admit this forward-moving story can be disturbing at times - - When will there no longer be a need for God to create something new? When will there finally be peace and a settling down that no longer require our looking forward? While it can be frustrating, it can also be extremely exciting when we begin to look around and see the ways that a new reality is taking place here and now. I see this when an unlikely friendship takes shape and leads to new level of acceptance. I see this when people are moved to take up the cause of the oppressed in our society and freedom becomes a possibility. I've seen this recently as a new community of faith is forming out of a renewed passion for following Christ.

Restoration implies returning something to its original condition. It does not mean wiping away the old and starting all over. Most often in scripture, this is how we see God dealing with humanity. God uses human beings to lead, serve, share, provide and gather. God is restoring all of creation to its original sense of wholeness, and God uses us to do this. The life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus is more than the description of a transaction (his death + his resurrection = our eternal life). I believe that is the simplistic explanation that requires little more than our acceptance. Jesus' life, death and resurrection brought into being a new state of things - and it requires more than our acceptance - it requires our participation.

Springfield is a community where the restoration of homes is cherished activity, but it is not easy work. Just like the work of restoring relationships, there are often set backs and interruptions that slow progress. It is into this community and this city that The Well is seeking to engage would-be followers of Christ in God's story of restoration. We invite new and old friends and neighbors to join us on the first Sunday of each month (Oct. 2, Nov. 6th, Dec. 4th) for a worship gathering that will center around this theme of "Being Restored". I am eagerly anticipating how God is going to do a new thing as we gather together this Sunday, and I hope if you are in the area, you will consider being a part.

Monday, September 12, 2011

No room for competition

Since beginning The Well at Springfield, we have emphasized the importance of being a collaborating community of faith. We not only wanted to be a welcoming presence, but a church that is cooperative and interactive with others in our neighborhood and city. This includes other churches. Early on, I met co-pastors of a Lutheran congregation in Springfield, and I could tell right away that we were like-minded in our understandings of what it means to be church. They immediately became friends and partners in ministry.

This is not always the case. Often times, churches treat one another like competition. We don't want to help one another out because of fear we will lose out some we are somehow creating a business of religious goods and services and vying for the same consumers. That is so far from my understanding of what it means to be church that I don't even know where to begin; yet, at times, I too find myself uncomfortable in the midst of collaboration. I think it is so ingrained in me/us to be the best at what we do that we prefer to work alone, even in the church.

I guess I've chosen to go against the norm. I can't preach a gospel of inclusion and then try to set out on my own course of separation from others. This past Sunday was a great example of why.

On the ten year anniversary of 9/11, we worshiped with St. John's Lutheran Church and the service was jointly-led by our two congregations. People of differing faith traditions joined one another, sang, prayed and even broke bread together. I believe we recognized that there is something much bigger than our differences and much more important than our distinct doctrines. We sensed God bringing us together to express our common pain, to confess a belief that God is our source of hope, and to encourage one another to be good neighbors. God's love and healing transcended our human-made boundaries and together, we experienced more of God.

In a world where tragedies like 9/11 are a reality here just as they have been abroad, there is no room for competition. We must find ways to participate in what God is doing in places and people everywhere. It will make us uncomfortable at times, but it can only serve to further the peace, love and healing that make God's kingdom known here and now...and, oh how we need it to be known and experienced here and now.