Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Word on Roanoke and the Church

My newsletter article changed after talking with a couple of people affected by the events in Roanoke VA today. A word about being church. This is not the only words that need to be said right now about how to be counter-cultural (speaking about violence and how we carry it out should also be forefront, as well as how to help heal a world isolated and divided) but it is A word that God has given me to speak.

There have been other words in this space, but the events of this morning, August 26, have caused me to change the words to fit something that has hit home once again today.

 The world we live in often feels on the edge of chaos. Some events seem to make no sense, and we as a culture are often afraid that this chaos will one day affect us even more directly. Some people even feel so overwhelmed by this that they do things that seem to make no sense to us in attempts to feel in control themselves. This is core it seems to our culture, "I must gain control over the things that are important to me and protect them."

There is value in being smart and measured with the things that matter to you, but when it comes to being a community of faith, the people of God, a church there is a different call.  As I've talked with a few friends this morning who are ministers in the Roanoke, VA area, our conversations about the shock in their community and resources that may help to talking about the events here in Charleston back in June. All of these conversations have included some form of "I get the impression that they've truly forgiven and are moving forward and aren't changing the open door policy that allowed this to happen. I'm not sure we'd trust outsiders so much if it was us."

Interestingly though, a couple of the conversations moved to talking about a crossover point of these two horrible events and church life. What do we do inside the church that helps people see that trying to maintain power and control isn't getting us anywhere near God's intent for us? How do we present the alternative to "protect this house," "seize what's mine," "I/we have to win," etc?

The big question that hit time and again was "What does a community of people who feel they have nothing to protect, but just everything to give, really look like, and how do we help churches become that?" I've never been in a church where everyone was like that, and we pondered if it was possible or if human nature meant that the systemic issues would always just keep coming around and "people being people" would always keep us from ever realizing what it's like to truly be church doing what Jesus asks of us and what Acts says the first church did.

Since then I've been thinking and praying around Jesus' teachings in Luke 6:27-36 and Matthew 5:38-47. In this time, I came to ponder if really requires everyone to create what church is meant to be, or if part of the issue is that thought itself. What if we each tried to be a person who feels (s)he has nothing to protect, just everything to give? What if each of us lived out these teachings and let the chips fall where they may? What if like Abraham, we risked sacrificing everything we love to God, knowing God and trusting God to be Love and to provide perfectly? We may never do it always or perfectly, but what if we tried?

We claim to worship a God who's actions throughout our scripture are based in Manna and Mercy. Can we as the church be the place where those things live? Can we risk our own desires and our own place, so that the Spirit can move freely? Can we be what our culture is not, a place and a people who do not seek vengeance, who do not seek recognition, who do not seek power or control, but exemplify what it means to freely give as God asks?
We're all in this together