SpiritStirrer

sojourner, hearer, & follower of Jesus

Category: church (Page 1 of 20)

Why #givegrace?

© All rights reserved by mollie | corbett | photography

© All rights reserved by mollie | corbett | photography

This past Sunday we gathered as a community to eat together and to hear about how our financial resources continue to allow us to live into God’s call for our life together as a congregation. Some of us met each other for this first time — over half of attendees at the meal have been with us twelve months or less — others were able to finally catch up with friends and neighbors.

We have much to celebrate. Our children and youth ministry continue to grow and each weekend we have many guests that are looking for a place to call home. Those that are new to our community speak to our welcoming atmosphere as a primary reason why they choose to return. Our new people describe our congregation as loving, kind, and filled with energy. Wherever I go in Shreveport folks tell me that they have heard great things about our church.

We are blessed in so many ways!!

As I walked away from our time together on Sunday afternoon I began to wonder about the impact that our congregation has had, is having, and will have in the future. I began to wonder about the stories that illustrate our impact, that tell of the many ways that we are encountering God in this place and of the ways that this place is helping each of us see God in places unexpected.

I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we have received it!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we cannot help but respond in generosity!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we know that our congregation is needed in this city and beyond!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because there are so many children, youth, and adults experiencing God’s unconditional love!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we are finding healing from our addictions, freedom from the things that keep us bound, and redemption into new life, abundance, and joy!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we are a unique community called by God to provide a place for ALL people!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because everywhere I go I meet people who have disconnected from the church and are looking for a place where they can be who God has called them to be!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because our identity is rooted in service of neighbor, especially those who would be easily forgotten, who have been ignored!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we have been called to be a diverse community that reflects God’s love for ALL people, no matter our story!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we are a community willing to live in the tension of unanswered questions and the messiness of life stories!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we believe God is found in unexpected places!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because our only requirement to come to the table is to be hungry for Jesus!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we know that being a follower of Jesus is more than just showing up at church or talking about Jesus, it’s about loving ALL and growing in that love!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because only together we can live into our call to welcome, love, and serve!

I am so thankful and honored to be one of your many leaders. Leading in this season towards a fruitful and life-giving future is challenging but extremely rewarding. Leading in this season inspires me because our unique community is sorely needed.

So why will you #givegrace in 2017? Tell me in the comments here on the blog or in the Facebook comments. I cannot wait to read of all the ways that inspire you to make our 2017 ministry possible!

On Thirty-Eight

©Amber Dent – AMD Photography & Design

©Amber Dent – AMD Photography & Design

A year goes by so fast! As I scroll through my Facebook feed I am amazed. Scrolling through my birthday messages is like taking a stroll through memory lane. People from all seasons of my life, all coming together.

I especially enjoy the many greetings from parishioners past and present. It reminds me of how real the body of Christ is, and how important it has been in my life. Being pastor is an honor and a privilege and I have been blessed by all the communities of faith that have called me pastor. I sometimes wish that they could meet each other!

My heart is filled with gratitude for my life with Shannon and the kids. The kids are growing so quickly, the fruits of our formation becoming evident. In the last year, we have laughed much, cried, explored, and rooted.

The friends have sustained us like they always have. They have provided spaces for rooting, conversation, and growth. They have also helped us discover new things and connected us with others. I am blessed!

My prayer for this next year is for a more balanced life. For better rhythms of work, play, and rest. For more time with those that I love. For more time for prayer, silence, writing, and play.  For rooting more deeply in the Shreveport community.

I also pray for continued growth in our life as Grace Community. For continued engagement in the community, to welcome others as Christ welcomes, to grow in our love of God, neighbor, and self, and to serve in the places that each of us live, work, and play.

So . . . bring it on 39th year!

Blessings & Warnings: Matthew 19

Then the little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray.

Matthew 19:13

One of the joys of ministry is the honor to bless. Over the years I’ve blessed couples, jewelry, backpacks, keys, cars, cattle, fields, homes, bread, wine, and oil. But nothing compares to the joy of blessing children!

I love when parents bring their children to me so that I can bless them. Making the sign of the cross on their forehead as I ask for God’s Spirit to come down. I want the parents to know that God loves their child. I want the child to know, over time, that I am their pastor, that we are their church, and that God cares.

In itinerant ministry, we often do not see these children grow up. But these days with social media it is wonderful to see the growing faces of the many children that I have pastored during the years. The many foreheads that I’ve outlined with the sign of Christ, the many prayers said at table with them, and the waters of baptism that had been poured out.

One of my prayers as I continue my work among you is that I get the opportunity to see our children grow up. Experiencing the first blessing soon after birth, the blessing at baptism, the weekly blessing when the parents bring them to me at the door of the church or at the communion station. The blessing of little hands holding bread for the first time, new bibles given and faith confirmed. The blessing of entrance into High School and driving for the first time. The blessing of graduation and leaving home.

Blessing as the continuation and incarnation of the ministry of Jesus!

After speaking to us about being like children, Jesus encounters one like many of us. We know from scripture that he was a young man and that he “had many possessions.” He wants to be “good,” he wants to make sure that Jesus is pleased with him. Jesus turns the question upside down: Does he want to be good (only God is truly good)? or does he want to “enter into life?”

When Jesus mentions that keeping the commandments enter us into life, the young man says, “I’ve kept all of these, what do I still lack?”

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Matthew 19:21-22

So often we have so much available to us that we lean on our possessions, our financial resources, our security, and our position in society as the measure of the good life. As the measure of our standing before God, as the measure of how blessed we are.

Today Jesus reminds us that if we are to be like children, to be truly blessed, we must submit ourselves, recognize our inability to keep the commandments (especially the one about loving our neighbor), and our desperate need for divine Grace.

This submission might push us to ask questions of what real life is like. What is true flourishing? What really matters? What grounds us? Where does our help come from? Have we gone away?

These are scary questions, questions that make us uncomfortable, and questions that might send us away grieving since they require us to let go of everything that gets in the way of following Jesus. Everything that gets in the way of our being like children, wholly dependent on God.

This passage is one of the most difficult in the gospels, especially for citizens of the most prosperous nation in the world. So being “good” is actually impossible, and it truly does not save us. Thinking that because we have not killed anyone, cheated on our spouse, or robbed a bank we are somehow ok, is not enough either.

We find ourselves like the disciples, wondering who can be saved then? It is good to know that “[f]or mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

We can turn back and join the community of disciples. The community of those who help one another remember to be like like children. The community of those struggling to follow Jesus. The community that knows and proclaim that all things are possible for God!

Mountain Sermon: Matthew 5

Matthew 5 is the beginning of what we have traditionally called the Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, Jesus gives us a picture of what it means to be a follower of God’s kingdom, a follower of his teaching, a disciple.

It begins with the beatitudes, a series of statements that should turn our understanding of the kingdom upside down.

Blessed are the spiritually poor—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Blessed are those who mourn—they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek and gentle—they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful—they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are those who are pure in heart—they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers—they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

And blessed are you, blessed are all of you, when people persecute you or denigrate you or despise you or tell lies about you on My account. 12 But when this happens, rejoice. Be glad. Remember that God’s prophets have been persecuted in the past. And know that in heaven, you have a great reward. (VOICE)

Jesus continues to push us, prod us, and challenge us. He reminds us to be salt and light in the world. To make a difference, to live out our love for God and neighbor in obvious ways. In ways, that might seem foolish to those that observe us.

Let your light shine everywhere you go, that you may illumine creation, so men and women everywhere may see your good actions, may see creation at its fullest, may see your devotion to Me, and may turn and praise your Father in heaven because of it. (VOICE)

These are the chapters in the story of Jesus that forced me to do a self-examination. These are also the chapters that challenge me as pastor and preacher for they are hard to read, hard to preach, and even harder to live. It would be so much easier to ignore, to speak of the gospel in a different way, in a more palatable way.

I often wonder if we take these admonitions seriously? Do we believe that God has called us to live this way, that the Holy Spirit does indeed help us to be disciples, love bearers, space-makers in the world?

I look forward to hearing from all of you that are taking this journey. What do you think? What does following Jesus mean to you? How does the story of Jesus so far help challenge and inspire you?

What has been surprising so far?

I’m thankful for the church. It is that body that I am grafted to and it is that body that helps me live into the demands of discipleship.

Keep on reading . . . it gets better!!

In Memoriam IX

Dear Garrett,

Our youngest, Lucas, is the same age that you were when you took your leaving. It’s hard to believe that time has gone so fast. Hard to believe that life has moved on, things have changed, and yet some things, like your absence, remain the same. You never had the opportunity to meet Lucas, but I suspect that if you all would have been 6 together you all would have had much in common. Especially the trouble making part!

In the last few years, I’ve thought much about my calling. You know how much I’ve struggled with that over the years. Yet each time I think about it, each time I doubt it, I remember that faithful day when your leaving made me a pastor. As a trusted mentor told me recently, in your leaving I experienced the worst day of my pastoral life. In other words, no matter what happens in pastoral life, the worst has already come. If that day did not end my pastoral life, then nothing can . . .

I can still remember that faithful day. Your whininess, your refusal to do what we asked, your hard-headedness, and your assurance that something was wrong. I often think if it would have made a difference if you would have agreed to open your mouth.

I can still remember that faithful day. Reality settling in, you were not coming back. We were going to get used to life without you. You were leaving.

I can still remember that faithful day. Eucharist shared, tears shed, life scattered.  The reality of your leaving becoming permanent. New life arising from our pain.

I can still remember that faithful day. Questions emerging, faith questioned, reality interrogated, and truth heartbreaking.

Although I constantly question, I am committed to this pastoral life. You have called me to it. You have shaped me into it and you have visited me in it. It does not matter where I am, Alexandria, Ragley, Baton Rouge, or Shreveport. You continue to push me into this life, proclaiming, reflecting, hearing, and serving. At each step of the way I can hear your voice calling, your eyes sharing, your presence comforting. At each moment gratitude emerging for this call, for the ways that God shows up even when God seems absent. At each moment making a decision to keep at this calling, even when it seems unbearable.

I could not imagine losing our Lucas. I could not have imagined losing you. Yet nightmare became reality and grace became our salvation. At each step of the way your leaving becoming sealed into our life together, your presence sealed in our communal memory, your story reminding us of our identity.

I’m thankful that you continue to companion and bring clarity. I am thankful that the scars of loss have become signposts to a resurrecting future. I am thankful that your visitations and your story continue to bring life and stir our spiritual imaginations.

You are still missed, still remembered, still present . . . see you at the great feast.

Peace & Love, Juan+

____________________

Be a hero, Donate Life! If you want to know G’s story click here.

Here are the previous yearly notes: In Memoriam, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII

Easter Remnants: A Cemetery Stroll

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Why do you look for the living among the dead?
Luke 24:5b (CEB)

I love cemeteries! So much history, beauty, and sacredness in one place. There is also much of the present, fresh flowers, little toys, bottles of liquor, an occasional visitor in a chair, new grief and old grief. There is something about the cross-section of life and death, now and later, this life and the life to come?

In my years as a pastor, I have also paid more attention to other small details. Living people who have their names on a gravestone just waiting for their day. Young lives lost alongside long lives lived. Graves that tell the truth even when it hurts and the occasional grave for an unknown person.

Cemeteries are key places in our lives . . . but we cannot stay there! We cannot expect life to come, only the reality of our own mortality that paves the way for new life, for healing, wholeness, and the possibility of a better tomorrow.

Yet we love to hang out in the places of the dead when we struggle. We love to go to the past and believe the scripts that the past tells us about ourselves, our situation, and about the other. When anxieties and fears come visiting we tend to go to the well-worn path. We thinking that we might find answers but so often we find ourselves just strengthening our positions, digging our heels, feeding on hopelessness.

Each of us has our cemeteries. The places where the skeletons of our life can be found. They too are full of stories, wonder, and awe. They too contain the remains of our family stories and unresolved grief. These cemeteries are important for us as long as we recognize that there is no life there, that there is only death.

We go to these places because they are familiar. We are all hungry for meaning, connection, and comfort. The familiar is the fast food of those things, it provides immediate relief that does not last.

In our life of faith, it is easy to settle for resuscitation, for being the same person just breathing again. No real changes, just the relief that we are breathing, heart beating, and moving through life. Just an intellectual ascent to Jesus with an occasional trip to see him in the cemetery. There we can worship, connect, and walk away feeling like we have done our best. No real sacrifice, no transformation, just a benevolent more of the same.

The good news is that we are called to a new life. Resurrection means that we are transformed, renewed, and redeemed. Our whole selves now being shaped by a new Spirit, God’s spirit, shaped and guided by God’s love. New eyes, new ears, new posture, and a new attitude. No longer bound by our past we can freely live into a new future. No longer letting death define us, our script define us, or our past define us. Now being defined by grace and allowing grace to lead us into loving ourselves, our neighbor, and God.

Allowing our old self to die is difficult work. It is even more difficult once the Easter lunch is finished. Once the nap has been taken the well-worn path takes over, the signs pointing, and the every day of life with its worries and rhythms making us deaf to cries of resurrection.

Easter is a season so I’ve been wondering about what resurrection might look like for us in the days, months, and years ahead? What does new life centered on God’s love look like for us as individuals but also for us as a congregation? What does it mean for us to put aside our old selves and begin to search for the living among the living? How do we allow love to guide us not fear, anxiety, prejudice, or security? How do we help each other grow in compassion, peace-making, and forgiveness?

How do we help each other stroll out of the cemeteries and into the land of the living?

 

 

Love Known: A Holy Thursday Reflection

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So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways.
John 13:34 (The Voice Bible)

Holy Thursday is one of my favorite remembrances of the Christian year. There’s something about food, story, and urgency that compels us to remember and to rehearse.

I often think that Jesus could have said so many things, could have called us at that moment to so many things, yet his command was a simple return to what God’s work had been about from the beginning, love.

Love modeled in service to one another.
Love that beginning with eating, drinking, and conversation.
Love through dirty feet and achy knees.
Love misunderstood, vulnerable, and abundant.
Love becoming primary identity as God’s people for the world.
Love without disclaimers or pre-requisites.

Each time we gather, each time we eat and drink together, each time that we remember that we are baptized, each time that we claim to be Christian, we are re-committing ourselves to the way of love that Jesus modeled for us.

On this Holy Thursday, we have an opportunity to go beyond intellectual recollection of what Jesus did on that fateful night. We have an opportunity to get beyond the sadness of an event that took place long ago. We have an opportunity to get on our knees, tie a towel around our waist and show the world what it means to be a follower of the way.

May we make love known,
Christ known,
in our eating and our drinking.

May we make love known,
Christ known,
in our engagements and in our conversations.

May we make love known,
Christ known,
in the way that we come alongside the forgotten, the last, and the lost.

May we make love known,
Christ known,
in the ways that we forgive and reconcile.

May we make love known,
Christ known,
in the ways that we treat all people as God’s own children no matter what.

May we make love known,
Christ known,
by washing in waters of cross-shaped love.

May we make love known,
Christ known,
by walking in silence, re-membering love with every step.

May we make love known,
Christ known,
by confessing our loveless attitudes, actions, and encounters.

May we make love known,
Christ known,
in our beginning again, through sacrifice, posture, and courage.

May we make love known,
Christ known,
by being what God in the flesh, Love in the flesh, is.

Missionaries are Disciple Makers: State of the Church 2016

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Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem, in the province of Judea, at the time when King Herod reigned. Not long after Jesus was born, magi, wise men or seers from the East, made their way from the East to Jerusalem. These wise men made inquiries.

Wise Men: Where is this newborn, who is the King of the Jews? When we were far away in the East we saw His star, and we have followed its glisten and gleam all this way to worship Him.

King Herod began to hear rumors of the wise men’s quest, and he, and all of his followers in Jerusalem, were worried. So Herod called all of the leading Jewish teachers, the chief priests and head scribes, and he asked them where Hebrew tradition claimed the long-awaited Anointed One would be born.

Scribes and Priests: An ancient Hebrew prophet, Micah, said this:

    But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are no poor relation—
For from your people will come a Ruler
who will be the shepherd of My people Israel.[a]

Herod called the wise men to him, demanding to know the exact time the special star had appeared to them. Then Herod sent them to Bethlehem.

Herod: Go to Bethlehem and search high and low for this Savior child; and as soon as you know where He is, report it to me so that I may go and worship Him.

9-10 The wise men left Herod’s chambers and went on their way. The star they had first seen in the East reappeared—a miracle that, of course, overjoyed and enraptured the wise men. The star led them to the house where Jesus lay;

Matthew 2:1-10, The Voice Bible

In the Christian tradition today is the celebration of Epiphany, the celebration of the wise men visit to Jesus. Epiphany means “manifestation” for the wise men that came from the east became the first manifestation in the gospel according to Matthew of the identity of Jesus as the anointed one of God.

Amazing that early in Matthew’s account Jesus is acknowledged as Lord by strangers/gentiles/heathens from the east. These seekers recognized the star, a sign that had been ignored by those who should have known, by the educated people of power, the “wise men” from Jerusalem.

It almost reads as satire when the wise men from the east inform Herod of what they have seen. The ones that should have known scamper at the king’s call to find out more, the wise men of Jerusalem knew of the prophesy but did not seem to care about it, believe in it, nor feel like the king should know; the significance of the prophecy is not lost on Herod, who already has a knack for paranoia about his being in power, most puppet leaders do.

We gather today as a community of faith to remember the story again. We do so because we are thankful, because our encounter with God compels us to praise and thanksgiving. We do so because we do not want to forget, we want to make sure that we are not missing out on the ways that God continues to manifest in our lives, in our community, and in our world. We want to make sure that we are a community constantly looking at the forgotten places where the activity of God might be found, where salvation is needed, where we too can find our redemption.

Last year at this same time I gathered with you and reminded you of your commitment from long ago to be a generation of missionaries. I spoke about three movements that could manifest in our life together during 2015.

I called us to spiritual maturity, courageous conversations, and relational evangelism. In order to make that possible I said that we needed to better align our resources (people, money, and facility) to serve our vision. Alignment required us to become a lay driven congregation (staff led, yes, but lay DRIVEN), become more generous with our financial resources, and become a hub for community life.

As I sat in my office and reflected on 2015 in preparation for this time together I was pleasantly surprised at the many goals accomplished from our Generation of Missionaries blueprint:

  • Renewing of the Discovering Grace discipleship pathway
    • Discovering Community – An orientation on Grace Community’s history, identity, and connections.
    • Discovering Discipleship – An introduction to what it means to be a disciple, focused on our Wesleyan/Methodist roots.
    • Discovering Leadership – An incubator for disciple making servants leaders.
  • Creating spaces for conversation
    • #converse2015
    • Inside Out conversation with parents and children
  • Community Initiatives
    • Strengthening our Common Ground partnership
    • University Elementary Initiative
  • Other ways we have grown:
    • Social media presence
      • Facebook – Likes Increase:
        • May 2014 640 Likes
        • January 2016 1800 Likes
      • Live Stream
        • 2014 – 52 average per weekend
        • 2015 – 65 average per weekend (larger than most United Methodist congregations in our Annual Conference)
  • Buzz in the community – People that I encounter tell me that they have heard great things about our church. That there seems to be great things going on. Many of you are bringing your neighbors and friends.
  • New members & friends – We welcomed 49 new members to our community this year.

We celebrate the many ways that God has used us in the last year.

Called to be a Generation of Missionaries

Last year we recognized that we were being called to be a generation of missionaries. That we must live robustly into what it means to go from seekers to servants, that we must encourage our maturity as followers of Jesus. At the center of that maturity is our call to discipleship, to be followers who model the way of Jesus, and in so doing compel others to do the same.

Compelling others is at the cornerstone of how each of us is able to manifest the presence of God in the world. We as modern day wise ones, recognizing the star and calling upon others to come with us to see the Christ.

Yet I recognize the difficulty in all of this. Often we talk about discipleship in the church without spending the time making sure that we understand what we mean when we say disciple, discipleship, and following Jesus.

I think it starts by the recognition that Jesus calls us to be like him and he models that in his ministry of love, healing, reconciliation, forgiveness, and restoration.

We see it in his miracles and we see it in his teaching, Jesus healing, reconciling, restoring, going where no one would go, living alongside everyday people, engaging especially those that were not wanted in the society of his day.

We see it in the beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12:

Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountain (as Moses had done before Him) and He sat down (as Jewish teachers of His day usually did). His disciples gathered around Him.

And He began to teach them.

Jesus: Blessed are the spiritually poor—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
    Blessed are those who mourn—they will be comforted.
    Blessed are the meek and gentle—they will inherit the earth.
    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—they will be filled.
    Blessed are the merciful—they will be shown mercy.
    Blessed are those who are pure in heart—they will see God.
    Blessed are the peacemakers—they will be called children of God.
10     Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

11 And blessed are you, blessed are all of you, when people persecute you or denigrate you or despise you or tell lies about you on My account. 12 But when this happens, rejoice. Be glad. Remember that God’s prophets have been persecuted in the past. And know that in heaven, you have a great reward.

Later the apostle Paul tells us the evidence, the fruit, of our following Jesus:

22 The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit:
unconditional love,
joy,
peace,
patience,
kindheartedness,
goodness,
faithfulness,
23 gentleness,
and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this.

Galatians 5:22-23, The Voice Bible

Do you notice that it begins where Jesus begins, what Jesus called the greatest commandment, LOVE (love = 300+ OT & 200+ NT) with the ancient call of God to God’s people, love of God, neighbor, and self).

God is love so Jesus is love, so we are to love. There are no caveats or disclaimers, the command is simple: love.

It is through this community, the church, that we are called by Jesus to go into the world to “make disciples” to initiate them into the community through baptism and to teach them to be disciple makers themselves.

Love propels us into the world and makes possible healing, restoration, forgiveness, over and over again in visible ways.

So discipleship is doing what Jesus did loving the world and continually growing in that love.

Often we give ourselves excuses for not being loving in the world. Faith as private affair . . . is it enough for us to worship together, to be nice people, to even be disciples. But have you wondered if there is more . . .

Disciple making or Disciple maker making?

Missiologist Rodrick Gilbert from India ask a group of folks in Austin about the fruit of discipleship and reminds us that just like the fruit of mangoes is mango trees, the fruit of disciple makers is other disciple makers.

It is in disciple making that the church lives into its fullness as the body of Christ in the world. This has very important connotations for us today. So as I began to think about our call from last year to be a generation of missionaries, a missionary people, the mission is disciple making in the world. It is in our disciple making that we make a significant difference in people’s life and in the life of our communities.

Disciple making will root our work this year. Many of you have come because someone have invited you, many of you have come because you have heard that something is happening within this community, this is exciting and good and wonderful and I am thankful that the Holy Spirit has led you to this community.

Now that you are here, have you experienced the anointed one, have you seen Jesus? If so how is that encounter changing your life? How is that experience with love pushing you to be a more loving person in the world? Now though the real work begins for us to be disciple makers in this community.

Becoming Disciple makers Requires Us to Assess

One of the things I believe matters when we are having this conversation is to be faithful assessors of where we are, to take stalk of our current situation, to understand our current location and its connection to our past, present, and future.

As your pastor, as a student of your history, as a conversation partner with you, there has been a growing recognition that we have been here before.

In other words, we have been at this cross roads, we have been on the verge of this disciple making reality before. There have been some false starts, some failures to launch, some breakdown in reaching goals and along the way God has been faithful and lives have been transformed.

Just like in our story today, there are always distractions, detours, and a need for recalibration no matter what the journey. The wise men saw the star and yet, when they arrive in Jerusalem it seemed to disappear. They could have easily turned around when they had the struggles. It would have been easier to go back home, to the familiar when the star did not seem to be guiding them . . . they could have told themselves we can just go back and keep on looking at it, it is easier, more comfortable to do that.

It is harder to continue the journey, to ask questions (to ask for directions) so that Jesus’ identity can be manifested in our presence, in our journey.

At times like this it is very important that we ask the difficult question: If we have been here before what has kept us from reaching our goal? What are the stumbling blocks? Where are the potholes?

What has kept us from being a robust disciple maker making community? A community that is fueling such transformation among our neighbors that it’s absence would be impossible to imagine by our region.

There are four things that I think we must recognize as habits of our life together that I believe have kept us from living into our fullness as a kingdom community:

We have not communicated effectively about what it means to be a disciple maker. We might have created some systems, some might have found their way but it does not look like we have a common language for what it means to be a disciple and a disciple maker and that it is discipleship that is at the cornerstone of what it means to be a Christian. Not attending a church, or being a church member, or being a nice person, or having the “right” beliefs, but following and teaching the way of Jesus, the way of love and the avenues of empowerment to do just that.

We have not been consistent in our desire to lead a lay led movement. This is important because in a church like ours it would be easy for us to consume the religious services provided to us by the staff and by the key lay leaders that are the “go to” people. We are used to this exchange of goods our services in our daily life so it makes sense that we have a tendency to approach the church in the same way. At the cornerstone of what it means to be the church is that all of us are part of Christ’s body and each of us has been given gifts by the Holy Spirit for the community’s mission in the world. The role of the leaders both paid and not paid is to empower all of you to be the best kingdom building community that we can be.

As the apostle Paul reminds us:

11 It was the risen One who handed down to us such gifted leaders—some emissaries,[a] some prophets, some evangelists, as well as some pastor-teachers— 12 so that God’s people would be thoroughly equipped to minister and build up the body of the Anointed One. 13 These ministries will continue until we are unified in faith and filled with the knowledge of the Son of God, until we stand mature in His teachings and fully formed in the likeness of the Anointed, our Liberating King.

Ephesians 4:11-13, The Voice Bible

This means that our vision of turning seekers to servant must become our shared vision and that I as your pastor am not the visionary instead I remind you of your shared vision (a vision that comes from the body by the power of the Holy Spirit) in scripture and history, I empower you by shining a light on your gifts, graces, and abilities, I lead the staff into their roles, and I walk side by side with you through the ups and downs of shared life.

We have not made clear the different roles that staff (including pastors) and lay leaders have in the building up of the body. At its best the lay leaders govern, led by our mission of making disciples and by creating structures and policies that constantly discern, assess, and implement our mission in this community. Staff members are here to coach, mentor, train/teach, and guide the lay leaders and other community members into our common and shared vision for the future. Pastors are here to bring these groups together around the common story, to provide strategic leadership, and to build up the staff and the key lay leaders for this shared work.

We have struggled to keep ourselves accountable to one another for our mission and for the difficult work of inculturation required in a growing body of disciples. Accountability begins with your pastors but it does not stop there for it is crucial in our life with God. Do we say what we mean and mean what say? Do we follow through with agreed next steps, do we have clear expectations of the pastor, staff, each other? Are our decisions made base solely on our mission and what builds the body best for that mission? In other words do we practice discernment or do we practice personal preference? When we make mistakes, when we disappoint, when we fail at our responsibilities do we practice confession, do we seek forgiveness? Are we transparent with one another?

Accountability requires our telling the truth to one another in love, clear expectations, and a commitment not to “be nice” but always to be kind and always to keep the health of the body and our common mission at the forefront of our decisions, actions, plans, and next steps.

Do these make sense?

These four patterns in our shared life are meant to awaken, to help us break the patterns that might keep us from experiencing the fullness of what God has for us or the potential that our community has to transform our neighborhoods and our city with the good news of God’s kin-dom.

We cannot change what we do not acknowledge my hope for this year is that we live into the promise and commitment that we have had from the beginning. So 2016 will be a continuation of our call and mission. So we must pause and give thanks for the many saints who have made this community possible, who have paved the way for our being here at this season of our shared life.

Welcome. Love. Serve

As I thought about the next steps and what God might be revealing to us for this new year, there were three words that I believe succinctly described our identity and could help us easily remember our mission. Three words that I believe express our guiding principles, our values, that we discerned long ago, that are contained in the acronym V.O.I.C.E: vision, openness, incarnation, community, and evangelism.

Those are key values, and I believe that these values are contained in three simple words: Welcome (vision, openness), Love (incarnation, community), Serve (evangelism).

These three words express the beauty of what it means for us to make Christ manifest in our community.

Welcome

This is a word that can easily be taken for granted. A word that might be considered over used. But I think it is a powerful word.

From the beginning we have been a community who envisioned itself as wide open, welcoming of all people. Bringing people together from across the city and beyond, bringing people together that have had a difficult relationship with the church, that have been shunned, disappointed at the church, that have struggled with God and have felt disappointment at God.

This kind of openness and welcome can be controversial in today’s church for it begs the question: How open are we going to be?

We are a people who take seriously Jesus’ call to welcome all people: the stranger, the sick, the struggling, the forgotten, the ignored, the hated, the minority, the untouchable, the foreigner, the thief, the hungry, the curious, the doubter . . . welcoming those who as Jesus himself said: “need a physician,” who acknowledge their brokenness and who do not fit the characteristics of the “holy ones,” the “powerful,” the “religious,” the “pure,” the “faithful.”

We are committed to this open, affirming, and inclusive ministry. These are truly NOT code words, there is no bait and switch here, this is not a partisan position nor meant to make a statement, we mean all people, as Gordon Brown, says in his litany “Welcome:”

No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here:
If you are young or old, you are welcome
If you have brown skin, black skin, white skin, or any color of skin, you are welcome
If you are married or single, you are welcome
If you are gay or straight, you are welcome
If you are transgender, you are welcome
If you are a man or a woman, you are welcome
If you cannot hear or see, you are welcome
If you are sick or well, you are welcome
If you are happy or sad, you are welcome
If you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent, you are welcome
If you are rich or poor, powerful or weak, you are welcome
If you believe in God some of the time or none of the time or all of the time, you are welcome

You are welcome here
Come with your gifts, your pain, your hope, your fears
Come with the traditions that have helped you and hurt you
Come with your experiences that have made you and broken you
Come with a mind, ready to engage, and a heart, open to discern
Come and listen for the Sacred Spirit that calls you to love your neighbor wholeheartedly, seek justice, create peace and practice compassion

You are welcome here!

adapted from “Welcome” by Gordon Brown, Shaping Sanctuary: Proclaiming God’s Grace in an Inclusive Church, Kelly Turney ed., 2000.

We continue to live in this reality and we continue to live into it without any apologies. I am thankful to be raising my children in such an open and affirming community; a community that follows Jesus’ example of loving all of creation. I am proud to serve a community that from the very beginning has been committed to this way of life and who has seen its future through the lenses of this openness and welcome in this city and beyond.

This means that it can get messy and complicated, it means that there will be seasons when we do not get each other, it means that at times we will have disagreements, but I would argue this is a key component of the beauty of Christian community, of being one people in Christ, of bringing who we are to our common life and to believe that together we can and are sanctified, set apart for God’s purposes of love in the world. The reality that together we are converted and grow into what spiritual writers call our “true selves,” human flourishing, holiness of heart and life.

So we are committed to continuing in relationship with each other in difference, and to continue in conversation.

Welcoming people as Christ would is key to our ministry in 2016. This means re-thinking our welcome ministry as a “hospitality ministry,” not just greeting or ushering our handing out bulletins but “welcoming people as Jesus would” a task for all of us but especially for those who have spiritual gifts for hospitality for loving companioning, for hearing other people’s stories.

Love

Love is a word that also is over used. Some might say that it continues to loose its meaning and impact. Yet we must continue to use it and redeem it for God is love and Jesus came to show us that love.

Listen, Israel! The Eternal is our True God—He alone. You should love Him, your True God, with all your heart and soul, with every ounce of your strength.[a] Make the things I’m commanding you today part of who you are. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re sitting together in your home and when you’re walking together down the road. Make them the last thing you talk about before you go to bed and the first thing you talk about the next morning. Do whatever it takes to remember them: tie a reminder on your hand and bind a reminder on your forehead where you’ll see it all the time, such as on the doorpost where you cross the threshold or on the city gate.

Deutoronomy 6:4-9, The Voice Bible

Loving God, neighbor, self – a willingness to live together in community in a way that nurtures mutual love – our capacity to see the other as God’s own as a fellow creation of God, no matter who they are . . . as Jesus tells us even our enemy.

So Jesus expands our understanding of what it means to love and calls us to make love the primary marker of our identity as followers of his way.

In baptism we reject anything that is not love and recognize our need for the holy spirit to transform us, so that God’s image of love in us can shine bright. Baptism grafts us to one another and to Christ, for the Christian faith is no solitary enterprise, for it’s fullness is found in leaving behind the isolation, self-centeredness, and pride of sin and death, and being born again into a new life, a communal life, a yoked life, a life that models that life of God who is community (father-son-spirit/creator-sustainer-redeemer).

Love requires, as Deuteronomy tells us, our learning it. So being disciple makers means that we are a people continually learning to love God, neighbor, self and continually passing on the way of love to our children and children’s children and to all that we encounter, especially to those who are new to the way of Jesus.

As my children get older there is a growing recognition that they have learned mostly by my modeling. This has been a gift to recognize and a course. Quickly my own patterns of behavior being shown to me by this other person . . . my language, my attitudes, my sarcasm . . . you get my drift. When it comes to a life of faith it is the same and when it comes to disciple making it requires us to be in contact with one another in worship, learning, and service. It also means that we live out our ministry in ways that facilitate our age groups colliding with one another, providing for ways that they can interact as they move about the building and as we gather in the community.

This will require our re-thinking of the use of our building. We built it for each age group to have their area this served us well but now we must imagine what it would look like for children, youth, and adults of all ages, to learn alongside each other.

This means that we all need to be patient with one another in worship for a new generation of parents want to have their children in the worship space so that their children learn what it means to worship and be in community. There will be times when the baby will be passed around down the row, that the child will cry, or as I know from my own children, that the child will get fidgety and not know how to use their “inside voice,” especially around silent moments like prayer and sermon.

The community learning and living the way of Jesus together across generations, personalities, and stories; all of our resources used in service to our mission of shaping disciple makers in this community.

Being a disciple maker means that we provide spaces where we model the love of Jesus in our community. We are committed to being a people of compassion, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Especially in a culture that is growingly polarized, that lacks nuance, and seems unwilling to create containers for a variety of points of view, containers for healthy, humanizing, and transformative conversation and shared life.

Especially when we are dealing with the difficult issues affecting our neighbors, systemic racism, systemic multi-generational poverty, high rates of addiction and divorce, spousal abuse, unhealthiness (high obesity rates, alongside diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure), and the growing sex trade.

All of these issues are at the cornerstone of the ministry of Jesus as he healed, freed, and reconciled.

What would it look like to make those spaces?

 

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Dr. Elaine Heath

In a few weeks we will have Dr. Elaine Heath from Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology and the Missional Wisdom Foundation leading our weekend worship. She is an author of numerous books, one of which The Mystic Way of Evangelism truly changed the way that I approach evangelism to this day.

 

I am honored that we will host her and she will help us begin to imagine those spaces. Alongside her time with us will come an opportunity to practice this space making by gathering around table on Saturdays around 6:30 pm.

Imagine Grace Community folks eating, drinking, and talking together in public spaces around our community. In restaurants, coffee shops and bars, in community meals at the Common Ground Community and with Muslim and Jewish friends and neighbors?

Together sharing life, sharing faith, sharing common dreams of a better future for us, for our city, for the world?

All of this because we are a people of love . . . because we are followers of love made flesh!

Service

At the cornerstone of our identity as a called people is the “giving of our lives.” We might not think of this as the most exciting aspect of our discipleship but it is pivotal. Giving of ourselves, the surrendering of our lives, is most frequently expressed through a life of service to God and neighbor.

In the church of the last 75 years this meant that you gave your tithe and offerings, that you went to church, and that you served on a committee. Many of you might remember those days.

All of those things are good things. Giving of our financial resources is what allows us to be in this mission, attending worship is still a key discipline that connects us to one another and witnesses to the world our Christ-centered affections, and we still need disciples who hear a call to lead within and through this gathered community called the church.

But truly, service is about the ways that we respond to the Samaritan on the road, to the sick, the hungry, and the needy. This is Matthew 25 type of stuff and how we empower one another to be a Matthew 25 people. In fact I would say that in service we are the best manifestation of Jesus in the world.

31 When the Son of Man comes in all His majesty accompanied by throngs of heavenly messengers, His throne will be wondrous. 32 All the nations will assemble before Him, and He will judge them, distinguishing them from one another as a shepherd isolates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put some, the sheep, at His right hand and some, the goats, at His left. 34 Then the King will say to those to His right,

King: Come here, you beloved, you people whom My Father has blessed. Claim your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of creation. 35 You shall be richly rewarded, for when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink. I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your homes and into your lives. 36 I was naked, and you gave Me clothes to wear; I was sick, and you tended to My needs; I was in prison, and you comforted Me. 37 Even then the righteous will not have achieved perfect understanding and will not recall these things.

Righteous: Master, when did we find You hungry and give You food? When did we find You thirsty and slake Your thirst? 38 When did we find You a stranger and welcome You in, or find You naked and clothe You? 39 When did we find You sickand nurse You to health? When did we visit You when You were in prison?

King: 40 I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me.

41 At that He will turn to those on His left hand.

King: Get away from Me, you despised people whom My Father has cursed. Claim your inheritance—the pits of flaming hell where the devil and his minions suffer.42 For I was starving, and you left Me with no food. When I was dry and thirsty, you left Me to struggle with nothing to drink. 43 When I was alone as a stranger, you turned away from Me. When I was pitifully naked, you left Me unclothed. When I was sick, you gave Me no care. When I was in prison, you did not comfort Me.

Unrighteous: 44 Master, when did we see You hungry and thirsty? When did we see You friendless or homeless or excluded? When did we see You without clothes? When did we see You sick or in jail? When did we see You in distress and fail to respond?

King: 45 I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother hungry or cold, when you saw a sister weak and without friends, when you saw the least of these and ignored their suffering, so you ignored Me.

46 So these, the goats, will go off to everlasting punishment. But the beloved, the sheep(the righteous), will go into everlasting life.

Matthew 25:31-46, The Voice Bible

Serving one another by sharing out of our gifts and by mobilizing all of our resources to the transformation of the world is the fruit of our encounter with Jesus. Is not an extra curricular activity, is not a matter of personal preference, and is certainly not just about putting a check in the plate so that others can do it. Again and again we are reminded that it is our task to get in the messiness of life (what God did in Jesus) and work together for the common good. In that work, in that service, we are best witnessing to God’s love.

This year it is my prayer that we grow as a community of servants. What are your gifts, passions, affinities, and where do you see the need for good news?

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All of us are called to be ministers, how are each of you being called to be ministers to one another?

Who feels called to be a minister (a servant of) hospitality?
A minister of mutual care (shepherd – one who cares for others, especially during times of illness, life transition, or struggle)?
A minister of the arts?
A minister of technology?
A minister of formation to children, youth, adults?
A minister of building usage (one who opens and closes the church’s doors)?
A minister of music?
A minister of baby care (you know rocking babies in the nursery, changing their diapers, and holding them in worship when parent is tired)?

These are just within the community/the assembly called the church?What am I missing?

A Word about the Ministry of Justice

Now a word about our ministry of justice: It is a ministry that we are all called to and in fact it is a ministry that is at the heart of the saving/healing ministry of Jesus. The ministry of justice is the ministry of freeing from bondage, it is this freeing ministry that made the presence of Jesus so dangerous for the powerful of his time and for the powerful of our time, it is this ministry that causes Herod to want to destroy the infant Jesus.

At the center of our ministry of justice, restoration, and healing must be freedom. This means that we must ask the questions about outcomes, how does what I am doing/giving helping the person be freed from the cycle that they find themselves in? How am I empowering the person and community to find self-determination and new life? How am I changing my own patterns and the patterns of my community so that others can find healing? How am I using my voice so that those in power can make a difference in the systemic issues of our time?

In his book Toxic Charity, Robert Lupton reminds us that every community has assets and that if we develop relationships, and help disadvantaged communities use their assets and see themselves and their neighbors as worthy of investing in each other and in themselves that we begin to make a real difference. We must focus our efforts and energies in that effort.

This year we have made huge strides in our partnership with the Common Ground Community. How can we continue to provide an anchor for that community, how can we engage in ways that empower, bring out the gifts of the community, in ways that truly lower the poverty level found there? How can the table gatherings that will take place in the spring help “spring forth” a renewed commitment to address the systemic issues of poverty and racism in our community? What are we willing to sacrifice in order for the gifts, graces, and contributions of systemically poor people can lead us into new life?

HOW CAN WE BE SHAPED IN A COMMON GRACE?

A Disciple-making Imagination

Last year I called us to be a generation of missionaries, a generation of a people sharply focused on God’s mission for our city and beyond. I reminded us that this has been our call from the very beginning and I have hopefully shown that we have been on the verge of reaching our “sweet spot” many times in the last 23 years.

My prayer for this year is that we use these three words: Welcome, Love, Serve as guides to help us remember our guiding principles and to help us discern and assess, and live into God’s promise for our life together.

When your leaders met for a planning retreat, this past November, we engaged in a exercise for the imagination. We closed our eyes and imagined that there was no limit to what we could be, that each of us had a blank slate. asked for the group to let themselves see some ways that we could be in ministry together.

We imagined a more obvious system for people to more quickly find entry points into our shared life, into their own formation and service. How does our signage, space, and worship allow for those initial entry points? How do we let the body know when new people make covenant as members of this community?

To this end I have empowered our staff to begin conversations with some of you about a “Navigator” community. A community of people who are called to help new people and people who are now ready to connect more deeply with this community in mission and ministry. This, like all other ministries, will be a lay led and lay run ministry that can only happen if you feel called to be a companion to folks hungering for more.

We imagined establishing another worship site during high holidays (Christmas Eve, Easter, Ash Wednesday) – What would a second site for worship look like for Easter of this year? Where can we begin to plan seeds for that gathering?

We imagined a return to a worship/learning-community/worship schedule for Sunday mornings, a schedule that allows room for folks to come to worship then Sunday school (for Adult, Children, and Youth) or Sunday school then worship; a middle hour provides room for connection between the two worshipping congregations and allow room for people to visit with one another. What does this look like for us? Does it allow us to be more welcoming, more room to grow in love? Does it give us more room to serve one another and the community?

We imagined more partners for conversation, service, and growth.

To that end we want to continue in conversations with the leadership of University Elementary here in Shreveport, their principal Kaisie Mainiero is a long-term member and servant here at Grace Community.
We are thankful to have many educators in our congregation and especially educators in the public school sector. We believe that focusing on one school will help us put all of our efforts into ways that a local congregation can effect change in a local public school.

Who are the other partners for continued conversation that we might be missing?

We imagined an official partnership with the Common Ground Community. This partnership can be guided by the phrase “Common Grace” and it should center on the alleviation of poverty and racism through conversation, advocacy, and community. Our disciple makers in conversation that is transformative, sanctifying, kingdom building.

Conclusion

Being a disciple making community requires our commitment and sacrifice. It requires a willingness to not make the same mistakes of the past. It requires us to be clear that this is who we seek to be and that all of our resources are aligned to this task. This requires our rethinking us to “unpack our gifts” and present them before Christ. It also requires us to stay attentive to our dreams for in those God manifests God self again and again and again.

A disciple making community is willing to get into the messiness of life. Willing to go on long journeys to new places, knowing that salvation is always near. It requires us to re-evaluate our values of what it means to be a community constantly centered on the mission, knowing that even our mutual care and our being “family” is to fuel our missionary movement.

This has been our call for 23 years and I believe that we are being called now to renew our passion for the many seekers in this community that are desperate to see the star so that they can go and see the one who has come to save them, to encounter grace, who are desperate to become servants of the kingdom of God. Amen!


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/150617846″>2016 State of the Church Address</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/gracecommunityumc”>Grace Community UMC</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Peace. With Us.

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Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Charles Wesley in “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

We’ve been waiting and now peace has come visiting!

It might not seem that way. There is still so much enmity, violence, oppression, and evil in the world. The list of injustices, fears, and hatreds too long to list here, the ways that we harm one another, ourselves, and God, too numerous.

But then we remember!

The people who had been living in darkness
have seen a great light.
The light of life has shined on those who dwelt
in the shadowy darkness of death.

Isaiah 9:2 (The Voice Bible)

In remembering, we are, as theologian James K.A. Smith tells us “catapulted in the future.” A future of salvation, consummation, healing, wholeness, and new life. A future filled with possibility, a future rooted in God’s creative and re-creative intention for all the created order. A future of promise because the light of Christ has come.

With all that is happening around us, it is easy to be discouraged, easy to be afraid. It is easy to believe the voices that tell us to build more walls, to fear the stranger, to be suspicious of neighbor. Easy to want to exclude, demonize, and answer violence with more violence.

It is at these moments that we remind ourselves that the one of peace has come. That the good news of salvation has come in the flesh. God becoming one of us, God brought low so that all humanity could live, could flourish, could be raised, and could experience a new birth, a new life, a whole life!

This Christmas Eve we’ll gather and celebrate that a savior has been born. Because God became one of us we no longer have to live in darkness, we no longer have to live in brokenness, we no longer have to live in strife with ourselves, each other, and creation.

15 He is the exact image of the invisible God, the firstborn of creation, the eternal. 16 It was by Him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes.17 He has always been! It is His hand that holds everything together. 18 He is the head of this body, the church. He is the beginning, the first of those to be reborn from the dead, so that in every aspect, at every view, in everything—He is first. 19 God was pleased that all His fullness should forever dwell in the Son 20 who, as predetermined by God, bled peace into the world by His death on the cross as God’s means of reconciling to Himself the whole creation—all things in heaven and all things on earth.

Colossians 1:15-20 (The Voice Bible)

Peace. With Us. Peace. With All Creation. Thanks be to God!!

Reversal

51     God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds.
        The proud in mind and heart,
        God has sent away in disarray.
52     The rulers from their high positions of power,
        God has brought down low.
    And those who were humble and lowly,
        God has elevated with dignity.
53     The hungry—God has filled with fine food.
        The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands.

Luke 1:51-53 (The Voice Bible)

It’s hard to imagine the kind of reversal called by Mary the mother of Jesus. Her prophetic utterance a blue print for a salvation that brings about change to the social order of things. This salvation turns the status quo upside down and calls all who hear to work together against the way things are.

This is an uncomfortable gospel!

In some ways it faces us with the question: Do we really want salvation?

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It is much easier to say yes if salvation means to “accept Jesus,” “allow Jesus into our hearts,” or “going to church.” Intellectual ascent, emotional response, or societal duty are easy and really do not change anything. It does not require anything from us and often our Christianity seems to underscore our already made up minds, positions, and opinions. Often unquestioningly supporting our place in the social order as providence.

This season what are we to do with a savior that according to scripture calls the mighty to fall, the rich to walk away empty, the stranger to be welcomed, the poor lifted, the hungry fed, the first to be last, the uncleaned touched, the enemy loved?

This week we meet Mary once again. We meet a young unmarried peasant woman who is bearing an illegitimate child. A woman who says yes in spite of her own life being on the line. A woman who sees the cosmic effects of her yes to God!

We too have an opportunity this season to experience the reversal that salvation brings. A reversal that initiates the peace that we and the world so desperately need. A reversal that makes us participants in God’s work of redemption for the life of the world. Our own hearts transformed, our own lives changed, our own perspectives altered, our brokenness made whole, our alienation from our true selves, each other, and all of creation healed.

So friends are we ready for salvation? Are we ready for the redemption that Christ promises? Are we ready to allow our life, our families, our community, our world to be reversed? Are we ready to be last, hungry, blind, take risks, be servants to the least of these? Are we ready to join the risky, dangerous, and revolutionary work of the one of peace?

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