Where is She to Go?

Luke tells one of my favorite stories. It’s about woman he identifies as a sinner (some believe her to be a prostitute). She courageously crashes a religious leader’s dinner party to see Jesus. When she does she falls to his feet weeping. In an act of customary hospitality reserved for a house slave she washes his feet, except with her tears. She dries his feet, except her hair. She kisses his feet and anoints them with her expensive perfume. Luke closes the story this way:

Those who were at the table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:49-50)

Jesus says to her, “Go in peace.”

But where is she to go?

The price of her coming to Jesus is that she can no longer go back to the way of life that sustains her. The one place she is welcomed, among people like her, is no longer a wise place for her to go.

Where is she to go? And what will she need if she is to get there?

I’m not sure where, but I have an idea of what she will need if she’s to find it.

She will need to be loved by a beloved community. She will need a forgiving community of forgiven sinners. She will need a place of belonging where she can reorient herself toward a life-giving story. She will need a community that refuses to ignore her struggle and is willing to tell the truth in the faces of injustice that glaringly stare her down. She will need a community that will weep when she weeps and rejoices when rejoices. She will need her burdens shared, some help with rent, and a few bags of groceries.

She will need more than good music and messages once a week. She will need more than spiritual pep-rallies. She will need more than programs that fulfill her needs through transactional engagement strategies and volunteerism. She will need more than thoughts and prayers.

What she needs is a community awakened to God’s hospitality that welcomes her as they have been welcomed by Christ. She needs a community of royal priests and hospitable homemakers who have made their home with the God who reigns in Christ.

We need that, too.

We need what she needs.

She is us.

Posted in Christian living, Church

The Passion of the Prophets

From around 740 to 520 BCE we find the ministry of the Hebrew prophets (with the possible exception of Malachi). It was a time of significant social crisis, cultural decay, and political instability. The small farmers were the backbone of the Israelite society but were consistently losing their farms to large landowners. Heavy taxes and debtor laws allowed the wealthy elites to exercise foreclosures and take the lands from small farm owners, forcing them to become indentured servants. Instead of protecting them the Kings justified the practice. He profited from the creation of growing estates. What was once a fairly equitable society committed to the Law of Moses had become a society dominated by a small class of large landowners and business people whose power outstretched the reach of the small farmers and common folk. ⁣

In come the prophets as statesmen, patriots, poets, and moralists filled with passion for Yahweh’s creation and justice. Each one set out to lovingly confront society and the systems of power. Animated by their engagement with divine love, they found the courage to condemn oppression, call out unjust systems, and invite society into a different way of imagining life in the hope they would envision an alternative future with Yahweh as King. If they could imagine it and see it, a more just and equitable society could be cultivated in light of Yahweh’s covenant. They could live in to their divine vocation to become a light unto all the nations.⁣

⁣Society didn’t listen. The commitment to their economic systems, interpretations of freedom, and blindness to nationalism was too strong, despite their claim as worshippers of Yahweh. The prophets were persecuted. The Israelite way of life was utterly destroyed.⁣

*Artwork, “The Prophet Jeremiah” by Michelangelo Buonarroti (c. 1542–1545); Oil.
Posted in Christian living, Church, Social Justice, Theology | Leave a comment

Jesus Will Be

To crown Jesus King
is to participate in the peace he brings.
To crown Jesus Lord
is to long for war no more.

He may fit “inside” our hearts,
But he will not fit inside our preferences.
He may stoop down to us in love,
But he will not comply with our politics.

He will be King, not concierge.
He will be Savior, not subordinate.
He will be Redeemer, not Republican.
He will be Day-Star, not Democrat.
He will be Liberator, not Libertarian.
He will be our mediator of a New Covenant,
Not mediator of a nationalistic commitment.
He will be our Advocate and Victor,
Not our advocate of violence.
He will be our Prince of Peace,
Not our prince of war.

Jesus is the Lamb of God that was slain,
The First-Born from the dead
Given authority over all things.

He is the head of the Church
Whose reign will never fail,
Whose love is never fickle,
And power never frail.

The Church can not betray her confession
With the witness that she brings
To a world suffering in violence.
She must crown Him Lord and King.

Crown him Lord and King.

We must crown him Lord and King.

~ a free verse poem published in this form on January 9, 2020

Posted in Poetry | 1 Comment

It Will Be Done

We were born in a system
doomed to fail
built on the back of oppression
hidden in a fairy tale

of greed-laced delusion,
seduction and confusion.
It’s easy to forget where we belong.

The promises of empire
and disordered desire,
we forget Mary’s song.

From the depths of her soul
comes a song of redemption,
of salvation and justice
for those bruised by affliction

where the powerful will go down
clinging to their clay crowns.
The clock is ticking and it will be done.

Love will drive out fear.
The Lord will not ignore the tears
and the bloodshed of daughters and sons.

~ A free verse poem written January 3, 2020

Posted in Poetry, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Crown Him

Crown him when you’re lonely.
Crown him when you’re afraid.
Crown him when you’re angry.
Crown him when you’re in pain.

Crown him when you’re in good company.
Crown him when all is well.
Crown him when you’ve taken courage.
Crown him when your heart sets sail.

Christ holds true when there is nothing left.
Christ holds true above all else.

Christ will hold you.

Christ is King.

~ A reflection for a new calendar year, written January 1, 2020.

Posted in Poetry | 3 Comments

Asking God

“I was hungry
and you formed a humanities club and discussed my hunger. Thank you.
I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly
to your chapel in the cellar
and prayed for my release.
I was naked
and in your mind
you debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health.
I was homeless and you preached to me
of the spiritual shelter of the love of God.
I was lonely
and you left me alone
to pray for me.
You seem holy;
so close to God.
But I’m still very hungry
and lonely
and cold.
So where have your prayers gone?
What have they done?
What does it profit a man
to page through his book of prayers
when the rest of the world
is crying for his?”

~ “Listen, Christians” cited in James Cone’s “The Servant Church,” a chapter in The Pastor as Servant (Pilgrim Press, 1986).

When we ask God, “What are you doing about it,” he may respond, “My dear child, you are a part of my royal priesthood. You have my Spirit and my Scripture, so what are you doing about it? I’m already at work. Why don’t you join me?”

Sometimes we may be His answer to the prayer.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Vulnerability of a Friendship of Love and Gracious Hospitality

Tommy

Tommy Millirons, born April 29, 1964 and passed thru death to life April 22, 2015. He was baptized into Christ on April 20, 2014. Tommy was a hard worker and jack of many trades. There was very little he couldn’t repair. He loved riding long bike rides and was awakened everyday at 5am for his morning ride. He was generous and loyal friend. Above all Tommy loved the Lord and read the Scriptures daily.

Over the past five years I have lost three dear friends for three very different reasons. All were formerly homeless. All were thrust in to making difficult choices under difficult circumstances. All did the best with what they had. All were ushered in to my life and the lives of God’s people. All were truly loved and became an integral part of my church family. All experienced incredible victories along the way. All died knowing and believing they weren’t alone. But all died.

Over the past 19 years of loving and walking with many who spent much of their lives living through social displacement, I’ve learned a lot. They have not only been my friends and a part of my family, they have been my teachers. 

Of all the lessons I’ve learned it’s that there is an inherent vulnerability in taking Jesus seriously when it comes to friendships of love and gracious hospitality. When a friend passes I am reminded that love and gracious hospitality is a life or death matter.

Doug

Doug Maness, born November 7, 1953 and passed thru death to life October 29, 2015. He was baptized into Christ March 31, 2013. Doug was a talented writer, avid reader and jovial rambler From authors like Wendell Berry, Herman Melville, Leo Tolstoy and William Shakespeare, Doug has read them all. He was a student of history, so much so he taught history for ten years. He loved hiking and camping. Doug was a good and thoughtful friend.

There is also a peculiar kind of fragility present in a friendship of love and gracious hospitality. It is fragile because recovery from addictions, life-reorientation, and healing from the trauma of social displacement is, at times, fragile. But this beautiful and hard, joyous and sorrowful friendship is understood when we are determined to enter into the suffering and find our way home, together. Home becomes more than four walls and food. It becomes a place where experiences are shared, new stories are written, memories are made, and friendships are found. Home is a place of inhabitation where life is oriented toward a life-giving narrative where restoration is made possible in every way.

In a society committed to filing each one of us away in categories of separation and belonging–race, class, etc–people can never be become projects to be fixed, problems to solve, or prospects to save. People must be seen as image-bearers of God who are to be welcomed just as they are and not as they should be. What I am learning is if I am willing to see them as God’s beloved, His love and gracious hospitality will become tangible to all of us as the reign of Christ breaks in.

I, along with my church family, have loved these friends in life and we have loved them in death. And though it is has been heartbreaking to see their lives come to such an abrupt and unexpected end, we are grateful to have loved them.

So we press in and pray onward. We have many neighbors living on the margins of our cities that are still alive. Some are thriving because of friendships of love and gracious hospitality. Others are still struggling to keep one foot in front of the other. Either way, God’s Spirit is out ahead of His Church calling us to join Him.

We must.

19989436_10209828593608612_8232861507479091508_n

Lonnie Dove, born December 5, 1961 and passed thru death to life July 7, 2017. He loved the Lord and read the Scriptures daily. Lonnie enjoyed long walks. He was a big fan of R&B music, especially Luther Vandross. He was also a gifted poet. Finally, he was a faithful friend. Lonnie was a member of the Williamsburg Christian Church family.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment