Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday

Holy Week has been a very significant one for our new faith community. We joined St. John's Lutheran and Operation New Hope and invited the neighborhood to Community Prayers in the Park. We gathered Wed., Thurs. and Fri. mornings for a time of prayer, silence, scripture reading and reflection. It was our way of intentionally moving through this Holy Week and intentionally creating spaces where we express our common love for God and one another. It was rich in meaning and relationship.

Today is a much more quiet day and I am forced to confront the reality of my personal Lenten journey. The question that I have been focused on during Lent this year is: where is death needed in order for new life to be experienced? The painful truth is that the story of Jesus' life and ministry teaches us that in order for new life to begin (and I'm talking about new life here and now), there must be some things that are put to rest. It sounds strange to say this, but there are some areas of my life that need death. Here are a few: dwelling too much on what used to be, allowing negative thoughts/doubts about myself to keep me from taking risks, not resting enough, avoiding spending necessary time in silence and spiritual discipline, and I could go on...I think you get the point. There are places where I need to let go so that I can live more fully. That is where my Lenten journey has taken me this year.

Today is Holy Saturday and we have no events on our calendar for this day before Easter. It is traditionally meant to be a day of rest and quiet meditation, remembering the day Jesus rested in the tomb. We will not gather with our community today, but will anticipate being together to serve at the Clara White Mission in the morning. For today, though, we are left to consider a world without Christ, a world void of hope and new life...remembering all the while that "weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Ps. 30:5, NRSV).

Monday, April 11, 2011

The road to new life

Last night at The Well, we discussed the Gospel of John's telling of the raising of Lazarus. Unlike the other Gospels, for John, this is the climactic story that signals the end of Jesus' public ministry. His claim to be the resurrection and the life is more than some can handle, even as they watch with their own eyes the evidence of God's power at work through this miracle. As readers, we are left with the sense that instead of loosening the wrappings and allowing Lazarus to fully live again, some in the crowd would rather have kept him bound. It seems that the blindness to the light of Christ was an avoidance of the scandalous reality of God's power at work through flesh and bone in ways that no one would have imagined.

The feeling of being bound happens to us in a variety of ways. Last week, I was faced with an awkward reminder of the limitations that some still place on female ministers (some reading will be amazed that this is the first time I have felt overtly limited because of my gender). I was scheduled to officiate a funeral for a local funeral home. I did not know the family and they did not know me - they were in need of a minister to perform their dad's funeral, and I agreed. I had a lovely conversation with a female family member and I heard the stories of a man who had lived a long and full life, and who had been active in a local southern baptist congregation. The next day, I received an email from her regretfully informing me that some of the "old southern baptists" in the family could not handle having me lead the funeral.

I have to admit that I knew I was due for one of these awkward and unfortunate experiences. Having been called and affirmed into ministry through faith communities that affirmed the calls of women, I knew that one day I would be faced with a different response. I could go on about how it felt, but I think you could read Kathy Escobar's blog this week and understand my feelings pretty well. I'm not one to dwell on rejection or to let it become my platform for advocating for women in ministry (it really is the incredible stories of giftedness and calling of women in ministry that call for our advocacy!); however, I have really let this get to me.

The road to life modeled by Jesus is one full of mountains, wilderness, rejection, belief, ambiguity, and celebration. If John's climactic placement of this resurrection story is appropriate, then what finally put Jesus' life at stake was the decision to offer life to one who had been bound by death. Perhaps the most beautiful image in this passage is the role that the community plays in unbinding Lazarus. The community around Lazarus are the ones called to unloosen the wrappings so that he can live fully once again. Life is given by Christ, but the freedom to walk in that life is the gift given by the community that dares to affirm the grace of God at work in each of us. Too often we allow fear to keep people in places that are comfortable for us instead of affirming and equipping the work of new life that is leading them to new places.

Last night, we prayed that The Well would be a group of people that loosens the wrappings that keep people unable to respond to the new life they have received through Christ. Instead of trying to control. manipulate and make palpable the ways God is at work, my prayer is that we will celebrate signs of new life and that we will tear apart the wrappings that limit the amazing love, grace and power of the risen Christ.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Mile Markers

Over a year ago now, I ran my first marathon. I still look back and CAN'T believe I made it. I remember trying so hard not to focus on counting down each mile for fear that I would panic when I did not reach each one as soon as expected. It was then that I learned that there is a difference between obsessing over mile markers and celebrating when you reach each one.

As I have continued on the road to beginning a new faith community, I am celebrating a couple of significant mile markers. First, I am celebrating that we have a name! Last Sunday, we decided to call ourselves The Well at Springfield. This name is not only significant in terms of our location, but also in terms of our mission. We are trying to be a place that fosters community, that welcomes all and that serves as a necessary resource for our neighborhood and city. I am so excited about how this new name will help to shape our identity and mission in the future.

Another important mile marker came last Sunday as we identified one role we see ourselves serving in a diverse and dynamic community. We want to be a faith community that helps to connect resources and people. We want to form rich partnerships. We want to promote collaboration. We want to learn from others already doing great work and to listen to the ways that God is calling and equipping us to serve alongside these groups and individuals.

I am already anticipating the next mile markers just up ahead, but for now I'm celebrating where we are on this long and windy road. Thanks be to God for giving us the courage to begin the journey, and the vision to keep on going!