Sunday, March 16, 2008

a city on a hill is made up of more than me.

as i've ruminated on all of this stuff (see previous post) i've become a little insecure, hoping i haven't offended the people around me, wishing i had the guts to not be insecure...but also genuinely desiring to accurately represent them...and i'm not sure i've done them justice when i assume things like what they mean when they ask me about personal ethics and i peg it as a bipolarization of Christian ethics and rest of my life ethics...and i've been afraid (as always) of coming off as arrogant and prideful because i think i've figured it out. i am so far from it. i am a helpless, weak, emotionally swayed ragamuffin who needs grace. that said....

today's sermon was on the next few verses in matthew, "you are the salt of the are the light of the world....a city on a hill". alongside the wonderful realization that these are descriptive statements about our identity and not commandments to go and do, i was taken by surprise at the context of community that is used.
after last week's sermon and my subsequent whirlwind of thoughts i started feeling like the only way i could really live out this radical call is to leave my current location and go work in an orphanage in some foreign country, or join the peace corps, or just get stronger in my own personal convictions. Today i heard over and over again that on our own strength, with our own resources and vision and commitment, we will not last. we need each other, and this life that God describes as the natural manifestation of a life lived in God's kingdom is not meant to be lived, cannot be lived, alone. Someone in our group made the statement that they were relieved to hear that they are intended to participate in God's work alongside others who have the same heart, who are like-minded. I was taken back because i had had the opposite reaction: How in the world am I (crazy vegan, eco-concerned, homeless loving, hillcrest dwelling me) going to find people who desire such an unattractive (by this world's standards of beauty and materialism and individualism) life??? (i've been filling in for the activities director at hillcrest the past week or two, and as i was talking and joking with Anita the other day she looked me dead in the eye and told me I needed to get a life.) (i really like parenthetical clauses today by the way) and as i type this i'm hit with the conviction that the people around me do have the same passions and vision and desire to bear witness to the kingdom. and while my bent may be the environment, christa's lovin like crazy on inner city kids at west athens, and mary's taking care of pediatric patients for 12 hours at a time, and esther's behind the scenes planning huge church events, and the list goes on...

so i'm not so much relieved at the thought of a community as i am challenged. excited and ready for the challenge, to be sharpened by iron, and hopefully to be an agent of new thought and re-imaging of God, together with my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

being more like jesus, to each other, as disciples, in love...not to be more christian, but more fully human...ragamuffins that we are.

yep, i'm trying to hold all those ideas...together.

Last sunday the sermon was from matthew and the beattitudes. But the 'main point' that I took hit me hard. If we are truly like Christ, if we really do what the gospel commands, if we take it literally, then we will be "different". I think different is a pretty softened way to say that we will look like crazy people. On a retreat recently we were discussing business ethics and personal ethics (as I understand it, when this question was posed to me it was intended for "personal" to mean my Christian ethics). Basically, I was asked, can they exist together? and my problem is, why are there two separate sets of ethics?? and if we have two end goals (one being participation in the restorative work of God's kingdom, and the other being survival and even success in a dog eat dog world), how can we expect our "business" and "personal" ethics to jive???? Where in the gospel does it command us to make lots of money and a secure existence for ourselves...or our loved ones??? unless you hate your father and mother. yeah i know it sounds harsh. deal with it. but God forbid you try to rationalize or soften it.

I miss the voice of certain idealists in my life. I feel like with age (I know I'm still a young 23...but even in the last 2 years), I've heard a whole lot of good, sound, practical advice. and some days I really don't like the person I'm becoming as a result. sure I want to learn to be wise, but not at the expense of my vocation to love the Lord my God with all my heart and my neighbor as myself. I don't want to tame and twist the gospel so that it fits into the demands and duties and laws of this world. I want to see God's kingdom.

Just before graduating from loma my pastor took me on a walk around the block before church. He told me I was going to be looked at funny as I went away from this place, that the world would think I was weird (specifically in my interactions with people who are homeless)...I didn't like the conversation at the time. it felt like he was complimenting me for something I don't think merits praise....but that's not what he was doing at all. He was simply trying to tell me what Jesus' life displayed, what Lou was saying last sunday...Jesus was ridiculed and ostracized and eventually murdered, because he lived a quietly outrageous life. He didn't do as he was told or what he was expected. "if you go against the grain you'll get splinters". splinters?? we're afraid of splinters?? not prison, not poverty or homelessness or death....just a little social rub? the thought makes me sick, and yet, i'm guilty. i even try to think myself out of guilt by saying things like, "well, maybe it's more impacting for others to see quiet acts of love than for me to have a debate with them"...and i think this might be true, but when given the chance for a conversation, this thought is not a reason to dodge my responsibility to represent God's love.

last saturday i met a few new people and invited them to an art show my friend was in. it was in la in a place i'd never been. it was a late event and the way there was through dark alley ways and barely marked roads. So these guys i'd barely met actually made it and as we were talking the jokes started...about the gross hobos and bums and how they had to lock their doors and there was some homeless shelter or something right around the corner and what a crappy area we were in...and the general response was laughter between these 4 guys. I think they were pretty confused at my response. I just walked away. and in my head and heart i was infuriated and repulsed by them. and the posture of my heart toward them probably looked quite similar at the time to the way they felt about homeless people. and for that I am sorry.

I spent the next 2 days wrestling with what I should have done. On the way to church the next day i had a conversation out loud with them in my car and said all the things I should have said, about how homelessness can be and often is all the things that they said, gross and disgusting and smelly and scary...and therefore, it is absolutely not a point of comedy, but instead should cause our hearts to break and our lives to reach out. I wish i would have at least have had the courage to introduce another way of thinking than the one i'm sure they've been handed down their whole lives....instead of avoiding the social friction that might have caused a few splinters...for me or for them.

if you know me, you've probably noticed that i'm a pretty opinionated person. and i'm not sure when that happened. I hold strong positions on lots of issues....but I try to be respectful and understanding of the fact that those are not universal beliefs. sunday during second hour we talked about the abrasive Christian that has basically forgotten how to love because the point has become resistance instead of the point being love and Christ-likeness, which will often result in opposition, but should still come forth from love. I don't want a vegan bumper sticker. I don't want to scream at a group of guys about how wrong they are to dehumanize beautiful people who happen to live on the street, and no matter how many times i gently suggest an alternate shopping location, my family can get groceries from walmart if they really want to. BUT, am I too gentle??? did i miss an opportunity to help change what i believe to be absolutely false (but most likely ignorant) ideas about homelessness?

i want splinters. i don't want money. i want to value others' lives. i don't want comfort. i don't want prestige. i don't want to be socially polite. i want Jesus.