A Teaching That Doesn’t Sit Well Among American Christians

Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” ~ Jesus (Luke 6:35-36)

It’s pretty clear. It’s not convenient or easy, but it is clear. It’s especially clear when you measure these words in light of the One preaching them, in light of the disciples that taught them and in light of the martyrs of old who obeyed them. The reality is we either set out to obey Jesus or argue with Him (usually in an effort to justify or rationalize our position rooted in ideologies different from God’s kingdom). Perhaps what is most striking about this section of Jesus’ sermon is that the word “love” in the original language of the text means, love, and “do good” in the original language means, do good.

What has gripped my heart over these past couple of years is that Jesus the Christ would rather die for His enemies than kill them. If Christians are called “christians” because we pledge to follow the Christ, then it does not take us long to see where following Christ may call us when we look to His blood-stained cross and empty tomb. At this point you and I must decide, will we follow the Christ of Christianity or will we follow some other “Christ” of a risk-free Christianity that in the end proves to be nothing more than moral therapeutic deism?

May those of us who choose the Lord remain faithful, even as we stumble, struggle and strain to trust and obey. May we walk in the power of our faithful God as He has promised to give us strength along the way.

——–

Oh, and Dr. Martin Luther King once offered an insightful statement on why loving enemies is the better way:

“There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates…For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does.”

I bet Jesus knew that too.

 

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An Ordinary Day that Changed My Life: My Story with Homelessness Begins Here

When I was 23 years old it was in the mundane routine of my ordinary day that I was driving to work when I spotted Mr. Clifford sitting on the curb of 2nd Avenue.

la-me-ln-garcetti-homeless-pledge20140715-001Mr. Clifford was a stout elderly African American man and he was homeless. His buggy was filled with stuff. Every day on my way to work I would see Mr. Clifford sitting in that same spot on that same street at almost the same time each morning. I could only see him so long before I knew I had to do something.

When I was a business executive I had a client who owned every McDonalds in the city. I visited his corporate office and asked if he could give me some free lunch coupons. He gave me a huge stack.

Later that day I saw Mr. Clifford sitting on the curb of that same street, just a few miles down from where I see him each morning. I pulled over got out of my car and gently, and quite nervously approached Mr. Clifford. I had never done this before.

I asked Mr. Clifford if I could give him some McDonald’s coupons. Never looking up he nodded his head yes. I held them out but he did not reach back. So I asked if I could lay them on the curb beside him. Again, he nodded his head. Not leaving well enough alone, I asked Mr. Clifford if I could sit with him for a few minutes. He nodded his head.

I introduced myself. For the first time, he spoke, “Clifford is my name.” 

“Glad to meet you, Clifford.”

Silently I sat. I did not know what else to say. So there we were, me and Clifford, sitting quietly on the curb off 2nd Avenue. I don’t know how long we were there. After a while I stood up, held out my hand and said, “It was nice to meet you, Clifford.” 

Reaching out to shake my hand he nodded his head.

“I hope you enjoy the coupons Clifford, and I hope to see you again,” I said.

He nodded his head.

I left. But that day, I was never the same. That day marked the beginning of many days where I would never again not turn a blind eye to homelessness and poverty. From that very day I began driving around the city every Sunday night armed with fast food coupons looking for people who were homeless.

It was in my mundane routine of ordinary days that I discovered that homelessness had a name, a nodding head and hand shake. It was in my mundane routine of ordinary days that God nudged my heart and on that day something happened inside of me that stirs me to this very day. 8,395 days went by in my young life before God moved that way. When He did my life changed. And 4,015 days later my life shifted once again.

At first it was a day like any other, except instead of going straight to the coffee shop I stopped by my office at the church building. As I was getting ready to leave a tired man came through the doors. He was homeless, along with his wife, daughter and grandchild. They were sleeping in a van. He only asked for a one night’s stay in a motel. But I believe Jesus can do better than one night, and if He can so can His people. And that is what I told this man. And that is what we did, and with no catch or conditions. Jesus did good because He is good and as His followers we needed to do the same.

Over the course of over a year our church walked in deep meaningful relationship with this family of four from homelessness to housed, unemployed to employed, hopeless to hope filled. After the man and his wife decided to follow Jesus they wanted to renew their wedding vows as they did their lives, so we had the pleasure of sharing in that too. It was through a relationship with them our church learned how to extend gracious hospitality. At first we used to think we helped them see Jesus, but looking back it was they who helped us see Jesus.

After 11 years of walking with people from homelessness to self-sufficiency I knew there had to be a healthier and more relational way to do this than what I had done in the past. It was in a relationship with that family, radically embraced by the faithful people of Williamsburg Christian Church, that I began implementing a highly relational yet organized way of being the kind of community of friends this family needed and wanted. It was also when I began working out what would later become the 3e Restoration Floor Plan curriculum. This was the beginning of what we now call “The 3e Restoration Process.”

jesus-homeless2Soon after I met David Benedict (now a dear friend). He and a couple of others had started an inter-faith collaborative called Greater Williamsburg Outreach Mission, a.k.a. G.W.O.M. They were a collaborative of almost 18 faith communities coming together to fight homelessness in Greater Williamsburg. Up to this point I was considering launching a separate non-profit as a ministry of WCC, but apparently God still had work to do. After several talks with David and others with G.W.O.M., I was invited to share what WCC had been doing to help move some of our friends from homelessness to self-sufficiency within the context of relational community and God’s sufficiency. God was stirring a movement through G.W.O.M. and He had invited us to join Him.

After many meetings with the beautiful people of G.W.O.M. they decided to pilot the 3e Restoration Process in order to teach other churches and faith communities how to live into it. So we did, and it was a holy adventure where new friendships were made, clarity of vision and process was formed, and eventually, where 3e Restoration Incorporated was born.

And now this 501c3 non-profit organization exists to partner with faith communities to encourage, equip, and empower them to walk in relationship with a “Friends/Families in Need” to help them transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency through community and God’s sufficiency. We are led by a passionate, godly and extremely smart Executive Director in Tammy Harden. Our curriculum and training is anchored by a talented and passionate Director of Training in Blake Miller. We have trained 9 church leaders from 7 different churches to help lead their churches into breaking the cycle of homelessness through gracious hospitality and systemic change one friend or family at a time. And another round of training labs are set for January.  We are partnered with Colonial Community Corrections reentry program for homeless ex-offenders. We are in discussions to begin a pilot with Williamsburg James City County schools to walk with a family living through homelessness toward self-sufficiently within the context of relational community. We want to see the development of supportive housing and a residential respite home to assist homeless men and women leaving the hospital in need of temporary or terminal care. We want to encourage, equip and empower those living through homelessness with mental illness and intellectual disabilities so they can live a meaningful and productive life of dignity and worth. And we hope to see all of this supported and surrounded by local faith communities equipped, empowered and encouraged to walk with these friends living through homelessness and hopelessness to housed and hopefulness. 

Tonight I have the honor of seeing what God began when I was 23 come to a place I never dreamed. 3e Restoration Inc will host it’s first ever fundraising banquet. We will tell stories of hope and beauty, of friendship and hospitality, of love and grace.

I praise God for it all and thank Him for allowing us to participate in His work of restoring the lives of the lonely and left-out. Little did I know at the age of 23 that He was doing the same to me.

Please pray for us tonight and from time to time each day after. If you feel compelled and want to join us in what we are doing in another way, please give to this movement God is stirring here.

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The Answer from WCC This Past Sunday: “Yes!”

If you are a part of WCC please read this post. If you are not please read this post anyway. It’s amazing what God is doing.

To catch up, read this post first. The reality of the situation is this.

Two-hundred homeless AIDS orphans in Eldoret Kenya have cried out to God for hope and a home. Two-hundred homeless AIDS orphans (and no doubt many more) have cried out to their Heavenly Father for Him to rescue them from the persecution and peril, violence and vulnerability of the slums. He has heard their cry. Almost 7,490 miles away a small church in Williamsburg Virginia was called by God’s Spirit as His answer to their prayers.

By the grace of God and through formal affirmation this past Sunday, the people of Williamsburg Christian Church profoundly answered “yes” to God’s call in King Jesus. We will join with God and His work through Christian Relief Fund (CRF) to build the Tarakwa Children’s Home. We will trust God for His provision and raise the $105,000 to house 200 AIDS orphans for generations to come. As a matter of fact, before we even affirmed this effort $1075 had already been received by our Church from people outside of WCC to support this effort! I think God is ready to get started.

So I sent word via email to Francis Bii, local church pastor and area director of the CRF work in Eldoret:

Hello brother. Well, the good news is that Williamsburg Christian Church has a affirmed that over the next year, from November 2014 – November 2015 we will raise $105,000 to build the orphanage! Praise be to God!
I will work with Milton to figure out the details.
May countless children have a pillow to rest the heads as their hearts find rest in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Honored to be on this journey with God and the children of Eldoret.
Your bro,
Fred

His response.

Hello Pastor Fred,

Calvary greetings in the Lord!

Wow! Praise God alleluia, we are overwhelmed by excitement because of this news! Thank you Eternally and thanks to Williamsburg Christian Church for the decision to provide housing and a home for these children who have been living in cold, persecuted and passion through challenges of homelessness, the Lord has heard them through you, you will make them laugh, smile and glorify God. Thank you and The entire Williamsburg church.

Praise be to God, We are looking forward to the day soon when the children will be singing and praising God having a place they can call home.

Blessings eternally
Francis

Roy and RooneyThese children will be surrounded by local CRF workers and local churches. They will be welcomed into beloved community where they will receive food, medical care, and a proper accredited education. Like many other CRF children they will become empowered and grow up in and through their own culture to join God in bringing hope to their own people.

The architectural plans and designs for the children’s home have been completed. The land has been secured. As soon as the money is raised the construction will begin.

As I have said before, the reign of sin and death has stolen these children’s parents and their dignity. For many it has robbed them of hope and life. But the good news of the reign of grace through King Jesus says it doesn’t have to be that way. As witnesses of this grace and as God’s gracious people, we will join our Heavenly Father–a Father to the fatherless–in making sure these 200 homeless AIDS orphans (and the many that come after) can know the good news that God’s kingdom is breaking in and Jesus is life-giving Lord.

Like the apostle Paul, I am persuaded that not even AIDS or violence, hunger or homelessness, poverty or hopelessness, things present or things to come, hostile powers, or any other created thing, not even 7,490 miles of land and ocean, will have the power to separate these children from the love of God in King Jesus.

God’s love has no borders.

Thanks and praise be to the Lord for His invitation to participate in His work of restoring lives. Thanks and praise be to the Lord that His blood-stained cross and empty tomb boldly proclaims that He is making all things new. Thanks and praise be to the Lord that people like those working with Christian Relief Fund chose to follow Jesus into the far places of our world to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel, and to partner with indigenous disciples to go deeper into the work God had already begun. Thanks and praise be to the Lord that people like Francis and Consolata Bii refuse to give up on the most vulnerable. And thanks and praise be to the Lord for His work in Williamsburg Christian Church and for your faithfulness to take Him seriously so we might play this small role in joining with God as He answers these children’s prayers.

Thank you Williamsburg Christian Church for reminding me that God’s Spirit can use His Church to do more than we ask, think or imagine. In the final words of the letter to the Hebrews:

“Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—with the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip us with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. Glory belongs to Him forever and ever. Amen.”

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The Announcement to WCC This Past Sunday

If you are a part of WCC please read this post. If you are not please read this post anyway. It’s pretty incredible what God is doing.

The word gospel literally means “good news.” The gospel in its most literal sense is an announcement that is good news for all who hear. It’s an announcement so compelling that it always absolutely provokes response. Imagine sitting in Duck Donuts and someone stands up and says, “Donuts on the house!” The crowd doesn’t stay quiet and simply nod their heads in agreement. No, they shout in agreement and clap! Who doesn’t want free donuts (especially the one with bacon and chocolate…but I digress)? That would be good news!

On behalf of the leadership this Sunday I was privileged to announce good news (much more substantial than free donuts!). But first, the bad news that the good news will turn upside down.

Many of us at WCC sponsor children through Christian Relief Fund. If you do not know they are a grassroots compassion relief organization dedicated to providing food, clean water, education, spiritual training, healthcare and disaster relief to the glory of God worldwide in over 30 countries. Francis and his wife Consolata are dear friends of mine. Francis serves as the Director of the schools and medical facilities Eldoret Kenya where some of us have children. He is also a pastor. Day-in day-out Francis lives to tell and show the people of Eldoret the gospel of God’s kingdom and that no one, not even AIDS orphans, are lost on King Jesus. When you and I sponsor a child for $35 per month they receive all the food, clothing, education and medical care they need to live in hope. We join God in changing their circumstances just enough that, by His grace, they have a chance to live a different life for the good of their people and the glory of God. Some of these students have graduated to become medical professionals and government officials. One CRF student at a time is changing Kenya.

When Francis and Consolata were visiting here I asked Francis how the work in Eldoret was going. He told me of all the incredible things God is doing. Successful schools creating successful graduates. New wells for clean water. Growing churches and new churches committed to making disciples and living on mission with God. This is good news!

Then there were stories like these.

ZopporahZiphorah is an AIDS orphan who attends the school in Eldoret. Her father, mother and sister died of HIV AIDS. Since then Ziphorah was sponsored by someone through CRF. Now Ziphorah has the money to go to school, get medical care, get food and clean water. But the $35 per month isn’t enough to house her. There are no orphanages for children like Ziphorah. She is homeless, alone sleeping on the streets or what the people call “the slum.” Just recently while walking to school (about an hour away from the slums), she was taken by a neighbor. He mistreated and beat her but she was able to escape. Every day she comes to school with these scars. As they have many times, a teacher decided she could stay with her while she heals. Once healed Ziphorah will have no where else to go.

Celestine is also a sponsored child and lived in the street with her grandfather util recently when her grandfather disappeared, leaving her and her sister all alone. Just recently some men captured them and sexually abused her sister. Now her sister is pregnant while still pursuing an already paid for education. Yet neither of them have a place to call home.

Francis, the teachers, and members of the local Churches take as many of these kids in as they can. Today there are just under 200 CRF sponsored orphans who have everything they need to have a different life but do not have a home—no place to do homework, or play, or rest their head. They are homeless. I am told that even though many of these children are sponsored, because they are homeless some end up missing.

The reign of sin and death has stolen these children’s parents. It’s stolen their dignity. For many it has robbed them of hope and life. But the good news of the reign of grace through King Jesus says it doesn’t have to be that way. As witnesses of this grace and as God’s gracious people, Williamsburg Christian Church can make sure these 200 homeless orphans and the many that come after can know the good news that God’s kingdom is breaking in and Jesus is life-giving Lord.

So this Sunday I announced on behalf of our leadership the opportunity to build the children’s home. Now think about this. When we were exploring the possibility of adding classroom space to the church building it was going to cost upward to $250,000. That would give us approximately 8 new class rooms. $250,000 to make our space more comfortable for our children 4-6 hours per week. Churches do it all the time. But, for less than half that price we could join God in building an children’s home for 200 homeless children that would make their lives more livable 168 hour per week (24/7). For $105,000 we could change lives for countless orphans for generations and break a cycle of poverty and hopelessness for the good of many and to the praise of God’s glory!

Our church family is postured for things like this. As a couple of people said to me yesterday, “This is in our DNA.” Think about it. In just four years we have witnessed God lead us into a holy adventure. As a faith community we walk along side many in our church family living in homelessness, some even to self-sustainability.  Now those living in homelessness in Williamsburg Virginia find community with us. We launched a non-profit called 3e Restoration Inc to equip, empower and encourage other Churches to do the same. Each winter we join with Community of Faith Mission (COFM) to turn the Church building into a winter shelter two weeks out of the year. We have many living through mental illness who despite being asked to leave a couple of other local churches in town found welcome and acceptance with us. Were it not for a group home founded by Christians most of them would be homeless. Over the past four years we have sponsored 45 AIDS orphans through CRF. No wonder that God in His infinite wisdom asks us to be the ones to house 200 orphans in a different country.

1101064The children’s home will be called Tarakwa Children’s Home. I am told that the Tarakwa is a cedar tree used as refuge for Kenyans to shelter them from the hot sun and torrential rains. It makes sense that the children’s home would be called Tarakwa.

If you are a part of the Williamsburg Christian Church family (or if you are not, please join us in prayer) this is what we are going to do this week. Wednesday (Oct. 29) through Friday (Oct. 31) we will join together in fasting and praying from sun-up to sun-down. We give the Lord our full attention and seek His wisdom as to the how we should get this done. It is not a question of if we should do it, God has already answered that in Scripture and we see it in His own heart.* It is only a question of how. 

This is good news! God has invited us to join Him in what He is doing half a world away in the lives of children we will never meet!

I know this is a lot of money for church our size and one as socio-economically diverse as us. Just remember, two years ago we were staring at a building debt of $145,000. Feeling the weight of this debt we committed as a church to raise the money together and pay it off so we could be free of debt and more faithfully join God in His pursuit of restoring lives and making all things new. We believed the Lord would provide. And he did, with a few thousand dollars left over! As my dear friend Thomas McCormick has said when quoting the psalmist, “God has cattle on a thousand hills so money is no object for Him.”

What do you say, WCC? Can we believe God to get this done and join Him in what He is doing half a world away? God has announced to us that we can bring good news–gospel–to children in Eldoret Kenya. Pray and seek the Lord so that in our response to this announcement we may join God in redeeming the children’s disgrace as we bear witnesses to God’s amazing grace in King Jesus! 

See ya Sunday! And stay posted because there is more to come…


* James 1:27; Matthew 25:33-46; Luke 4:16-19; Psalm 10:14, 18; 68:5; 82:3; 146:9; Isaiah 1:17-23; Jeremiah 22:3; Zechariah 7:10; Matthew 22:38-39 

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Words that Become Flesh and Dwells Among Others

Leaning_Trees_-_geograph.org.uk_-_707031I think Christians need to remember this important truth: we do not have to agree with others to love them and treat them with gracious hospitality and kindness. When you forget or doubt that, read the gospels and look at Jesus. If the example of Jesus teaches us anything about our responsibility to the world it is that we must lean toward reconciliation, treating others the way we would like to be treated.  To do anything less is not gospel–good news–to a world in desperate need for some.

Society will not be persuaded by words or argumentation, but by self-giving love and gracious hospitality. Things change when we move in close to others in kindness and friendship, not away in disgust or disagreement. We need to learn how to live in that tension, to obey Jesus and trust Him with the consequences.

So where do we begin. I have two suggestions.

storm_trooper_small_talk-713x5341. Start with the person closest to you right now.

I don’t meant the person closest  to you on an emotional level. I’m talking about the one literally closest to you–the one in close proximity to your everyday rhythms of life. Your next door neighbor. Your co-worker. Your Beautician. The person serving your food at your favorite restaurant. Or the person you avoid every Sunday at a church gathering. Introduce (or reintroduce) yourself. Ask them to share a part of their story (Where are you from? What brings you here? What compelled you to work here?). If they ask, share yours. And before you think this is too intrusive or that they want this, I would suggest that most people want to be known, though usually on their own terms. Do not nurture the fragmented culture that forces people to the margins of quiet desperation. Take a risk and move in by choosing presence. Listen. Learn who they are. Then as God’s Spirit works in you, you just might begin to love them in a way that reflects the love God has for them. Who knows, you develop a surprising friendship. You might even discover ways you can be more deeply present with them as God leads and forms the both of you in His own redemptive way. One thing is for certain, you will never know until you begin.

2. Ask yourself these two questions (and do so often):

Who might God be calling me to love?
Who might God be calling to love me?

Invite others into discerning these questions with you. In our missional community gatherings, we ask these two questions almost weekly. We share what we’re thinking and the challenges keeping us from moving in. This helps us live more present with others. We slowly awaken to what God may be up to in their lives and ours. We are reoriented to move in closer by embracing them and making room in our lives for their presence. We start with small steps. But we at least start. For us it is what it means to follow Christ and to love with a self-giving love. We choose to posture our lives in gracious hospitality and live as gracious hosts.

Choose what works for you and your personality, but do something.

Either way, no matter what we do or how we go about it, the Incarnation reminds us that our words must become flesh where, as witnesses of God’s kingdom, we make our dwelling among others. As God is present with us we must learn to become present with others. When we do, we’re able to join God in what He is doing in our lives and theirs.

And remember, we don’t go at it alone. Do it in along side others committed to doing the same.

I hope you will.

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Integrity and Preaching, Writing, or Posting Only What You Practice

I hear it all the time.

“I have a heart for the poor.”

That is beautiful. Can you name one?

“I think the Church should should get out of the building and love their neighbors.”

I agree. Do you know the names of neighbors living beside you?

“I wished the Church would stop brushing off mental illness and intellectual disabilities and create an environment where it is talked about and embraced.”

Absolutely. Are you in a personal relationship with someone (outside of your family) living with a mental illness or intellectual disability?

Preaching Only What You Practice

Everyone has an opinion. I have a few myself. It’s just now we live in a culture where anyone who can type can share them with anyone who can read (like I am doing right now–ironic, eh?). Don’t get me wrong, I am for sharing and airing opinions (obviously). But I am for sharing and airing opinions that stem from personal experience rather than theoretical conviction.

I am in the blessed position to work with men and women, those some would deem “conservative” and others “liberal,” who have determined to give a significant portion of their lives away to serve the last, least, lonely and left-out in our society. These people are putting boots to the ground to serve the poor, the mentally ill, the intellectually disabled, the homeless, and are reaching out to their neighbors living next door and across the street. They know their names. They know their stories. They have integrity when they “preach” and when they do, I listen.

Yet I find myself surrounded by other men and women, “conservative” and “liberal” who have determined to preach at or to the last, least, lonely and left-out. These are the people who do not know the names of the poor, the mentally ill, the intellectually disabled, the homeless, or even their next door neighbors. Instead they know the names of commentators of MSNBC, Fox News, and other media pundits. So when they speak, I shake my head at the profundity of ignorance that flows from their mouths and am saddened that they are unable to see their hypocrisy and short-sightedness.

white-noise

Opinions As White Noise

I want to hear from people giving their lives away for their convictions, not just sitting in a tower or behind a laptop or in their car or on their couch letting everyone else know what we (by which they usually mean someone other than themselves) should do. I need to hear from people like Alison, Tammy, Bill, Carl, Danny, David, Tim, Erin, Lisa, Blake, John, Ray, Jason, David (not a typo, I know a lot of Davids), Jon (again, not a typo, I know a lot of Johns), Carolyn, Pete, Barbara, Anita, Amy, and I could go and on. These are the folks living in the trenches with their neighbors living in motels, back in the woods, in group homes, and one house down from their own. These are the ones who preach only what they practice and in turn, practice what they preach. At this stage in my life anything less is white noise. And I am learning that the best thing to do with white noise is to tune it out, or better yet shut it off.

If there is one thing bloggers, pundits, writers, pastors and conference speakers demonstrate is that anyone can theorize, politicize, dramatize or criticize, but true witnesses practice before they preach; true witnesses walk in relationship with those living in the trenches of loneliness or difficulty before they dare speak words of solutions or possibility.

Perhaps the time has come where we should stop reading bloggers and listening to pundits with endless opinions not rooted in personal practice. Instead, lets just obey God and trust Him with the consequences, and lets commit to preaching only what we practice.

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WCC: Who We Are and Are Becoming

As I spent time Sunday afternoon with 11 men living with mental illness and intellectual disabilities, I listened with joy and excitement. They were expressing their gratitude and excitement for feeling loved, welcomed and accepted by Williamsburg Christian Church. I knew this time of sharing was important for them because they’ve been asked to leave a couple of other Churches before. They were considered, well, too difficult. Then as I listened to the dear woman who cares for them tell me how excited they are each week to gather with us, experience shared meals with us, and sit with us each week at the Lord’s Table, my heart became full. We are becoming their family.

I’ve been thinking about how this is what we call gracious hospitality, where we make room in our lives for the other, especially “the stranger,” and we choose to welcome all with radical embrace. This, I think, is central to the Gospel.

There is no doubt that we, Williamsburg Christian Church, have a long way to go in becoming who God longs for us to become. We are not perfect. We won’t be. There will continue to be times where we fail to live graciously as a people called to self-giving love. There will be times where, no matter how hard we try, we will fail to please every person or love them according to their standards and expectations (I confess to you that this troubles me and makes my heart ache, yearning for grace and greater faithfulness).

Taking Jesus seriously and pursuing hospitality is hard. There will be times when we allow our fears to turn our hearts back to living in accordance with the Old Age that is passing way–a world bent on nurturing fear through violence and self-assertion. But we will repent. We will reconcile and forgive. Then we can set our hearts toward re-orienting our lives toward the New Age that has come through Jesus as Lord, and we do so together. By God’s grace and the power of His Spirit working within us, we begin to look a little more like His beloved community; we begin to look like the people of the Cross who live in light of the Resurrected Lord.

So how do I describe Williamsburg Christian Church to those who ask as we live in a society fragmented, and driven by consumerism and self-interest? I have found myself saying something like this:

We are the mentally ill, the intellectually disabled, the homeless, the formerly homeless, the addicted, the recovering, the wealthy, the poor, the widows, the married, the never-been-married and the divorced; we are the working, the unemployed, the young and the old; we are private citizens, public servants, the “from-here’s” and the “come-here’s”; we are the wandering, the confused, the certain, the abused, the abandoned, and the hopeful; we are the struggling, the privileged, the prideful, the humble, the entitled, and the forgotten. But above all we are learning how to be loved by the God of heaven and earth and are discovering that our identity is in something greater than these categories most often ascribed to us. We know that we have been broken and bruised by sin, but we also know that in Jesus we have been given new life by the holy Breathe of God. So we’ve decided to live as a committed family of witnesses to God’s grace and love, and together we proclaim with our lips and lives that Jesus is Lord and that we are citizens of a kingdom that will never be trouble. This is what we call “Williamsburg Christian Church.”

WCC, I am grateful beyond words to know that whether we say it like this or not, this is who we are. May God give us humility and courage to live as people of gracious hospitality and witnesses of His in-breaking kingdom of grace, and may we, with our lips and lives, proclaim that Jesus is Lord.

Amen.

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