Monday, January 30, 2017

Pray for a Pastor

It was a day or two before Thanksgiving in my second year of seminary. My father had picked me up at the St. Louis airport, and we were midway into our drive to his home in mid-Missouri. The conversation had turned to what I was learning in seminary, and I started to share a host of new insights gained from my professor of Christian ethics, Stanley Hauerwas. If you know anything about Hauerwas who was named "America's Best Theologian" by Time, then you know he has the capacity to turn your head inside out and upside down as he presents new ways of thinking about what it means to be a Christian. I was five minutes into sharing my new knowledge with Dad, explaining what I had learned about capitalism, when Dad nearly drove off the road as he asked, "What in the hell are they teaching you?"

I can almost picture everything about that conversation. I might not ever forget it as it's the first time I realized how controversial following Jesus can be. Most of us prefer a watered-down version of the Gospel when we realize how hard it is to fully take on the name of Christ in all we say, all we do, and all we are. There is a reason Jesus was a threat to both the religious and political establishment of his day. We often forget some of why he was crucified.

And, while I'm not a betting woman, I'm willing to bet your pastor has heard a thing or two in recent weeks that echo the sentiment of, "What in the hell are you thinking? Or teaching us? Or preaching to us?" There is a good chance your pastor has heard a word or two about what she is to say and not say, what she is to do or not do, how she is to offer a more limited view of who Jesus really was and is, at such a time as this.

No matter what your pastor proclaimed or prayed yesterday, someone in the congregation was likely disappointed. Some people stepped inside sanctuaries yesterday longing to hear a word about how to think theologically about immigration and refugees. Their hearts were breaking, and they prayed their pastor would have something to say about how our nation is called to be more compassionate, to follow the instructions to welcome the stranger found throughout the Old and New Testaments. Countless other parishioners hesitated as to whether to actually come to worship. They held their breath during the pastoral prayer and the sermon, praying the pastor would not say anything "political" before rolling their eyes the moment the word "immigration" was mentioned. Your pastor was damned before she ever said a word yesterday.

Meanwhile, your pastor may be second-guessing everything today because she has never before pastored a congregation in a time when the nation feels as deeply divided as it does now. She's longing to please everyone, a trait at the core of her personality, while knowing that this goal is not achievable right now. She is carefully receiving every word and waiting for additional criticisms to come. But more than anything, she is longing to be as faithful as she can to Jesus, the one who called her and claimed her, the one who gave her a vision of what God's kingdom can look like on earth, a vision so compelling that she was willing to let go of other dreams and go to seminary.

If you're not currently praying for your pastor, I invite you to start doing so today and allow these prayers to continue to rise up like incense filling a room. If you're not sure what to pray, it can go something like this:

Gracious God, thank you for the ways in which you call and equip people to serve as priests, pastors, shepherds, and teachers. I thank you, especially, for my pastor - for his willingness to drop everything in order to go to the hospital when a person is sick or extend the workday an extra hour when one is in a challenging situation and needs to talk. Thank you for how he seems to love my children, getting down on his knees to share another story about Jesus. Thank you for his spouse and children, people who know plans cannot be made on Saturday night and that weekends together are one day maximum. Thank you for his love of scripture and the ways he seeks to bring it to life. Thank you for all he does to help me be a more faithful disciple of your Son, Jesus.

Will you hold my pastor tightly during this time? It must be impossible for everyone to hear and appreciate his preaching on a subject like immigration when your scripture has so much to say but opinions and convictions are tightly held. It must be impossible to say the words "justice" or "mercy" without being told you're being too political. It must be impossible to please everyone, especially when a congregation is diverse in every possible way. Will you please help him to be faithful? Will you give him the capacity to glean the words he needs to say from you and you alone? When criticism comes, will you grant him a wise spirit that can discern what he needs to hear and explore further and what he needs to let go of? And will you show me how I can support him, even if I might not always agree with him? I want our church to be a faithful representation of your light, your love, your mercy, your grace and your justice. And while I might disagree with him on certain things, I believe my pastor wants this, too. So please strengthen him once more. Watch over him. Bless his family, and bless him - especially at such a time as this.

Thank you, God, for our pastor.


Friday, January 27, 2017

A Prayer for the President

There is one message I love to proclaim more than any other message. It's a message that can be boiled down into a handful of words. It's a simple truth that we have a hard time accepting, let alone acting upon. But receiving the truth can set us free.

You are beloved.

You are beloved. God has shaped and formed you. God has given you a distinct set of gifts that make you unique, remarkable, and wonderful. You are the reason God's heart beats and sometimes skips a beat. There is nothing you can do to prevent God from loving you and longing to be in relationship with you.

This message is proclaimed each time we baptize someone at our church. We sprinkle water on top of a child's head, reminding the child and the congregation how we are incorporated into God's mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit. We call upon the grace of Jesus that was infused within us at birth. We invite the Holy Spirit to work within the child. And then we light a candle. Holding the candle in front of the child's face, I remind the child how she has a powerful light within her, a light composed of her unique gifts and talents, and how she is called to shine this light to the world around her. I then remind her how the light of Christ is always with her and pray she will never ever forget that she is beloved - deeply loved by her parents, her church family and God. We then extinguish the flame and sometimes watch the smoke fill the air as another reminder of how our light can also fill a room.

I love reminding people of God's love. I love telling our congregation that they are more than what their business card says about them. I long for people to know and live as though we are beloved.

I now find myself longing for our new President to claim this truth about himself more than any other truth.

Open the pages of today's Washington Post, and you'll find several stories about the President. One article is titled "They gave me a standing ovation" and reports how President Trump appeared obsessed with his popularity in a recent television interview. Another article reports how President Trump called the acting director of the National Park Service on the day after the inauguration, demanding photos be removed because they showed a crowd much smaller than the one President Trump imagined or hoped for. We now know how the President's disappointment over last Friday's crowd has led to "alternative facts" being offered in the first press conference from the White House briefing room. The actions of this week point to a President who does not appear to understand the truth that sits at the core of his identity. And his actions matter. They are impacting millions of people.

Eugene Robinson hits the nail on the head when he writes, "It matters that the most powerful man in the world insists on 'facts' that are nothing but self-aggrandizing fantasy. It matters that the president of the United States seems incapable of publicly admitting any error. It matters that Trump's need for adulation appears to be insatiable" ("The Peril of Ignoring the Rants," The Washington Post, January 27, 2017, A17).

Very few people can effectively lead without knowing the truth about themselves. Faithful leadership stems from people who know who they are at the core of their being. Individuals who know they are beloved, already more than enough, are able to lead in a way that promotes the greater good of everyone instead of their own individual success.

Imagine how differently President Trump could be leading today if he realized his worth has nothing to do with whether a group of government workers give him a standing ovation or remain seated after his remarks. Imagine the dialogue that could have occurred in Saturday's press conference if Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, had not been asked to defend a lie or propagate an alternative fact. Imagine the compassion that could flow from President Trump if he understood how he is who he is only by the grace of God. Imagine who he might be able to see if he first saw himself as a beloved child of God - more than a successful businessman who doubled the initiation fee on his Florida resort after being elected, more than a billionaire who refuses to release his tax returns, more than a celebrity who believes he can get away with anything, more than the President of a country that is called to be a light to the nations.

On Sunday morning, our ministry intern at Mount Vernon Place, prayed words that are sticking with me some five days later. "God may you help our President see his own sacred worth so he can see this sacred worth in others." I've been praying a version of this prayer each day since Sunday, and I invite you to do the same.

Almighty God, can you please help Donald J. Trump hear the words you spoke to Jesus at his baptism. "This is my child, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased." May this belovedness be at his center. May you help him see his own sacred worth so he might be able to see the sacred worth in others and then know the sacred responsibility that has been placed upon his shoulders to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you. God, please help him to see that you already love him, and how this love is more than enough. Amen.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Provoked by a Simple Question

It was a one sentence Facebook status update - a question with no following explanation. But the question has been haunting me since I saw it last night.

"Would you want yourself as a best friend?" my colleague Kevin inquired.

I breezed through it last night only to find myself still thinking about the question when my eyes opened this morning.

"Would you want yourself as a best friend?"

Umm. I'm not sure.

While I often have the best intentions, I regularly forget to call someone on their birthday let alone purchase a package or plan to spend time together. While a day never goes by without me spending time on Facebook, I don't often take two or three minutes to wish all my "friends" a happy birthday. I have friends who I adore, people with whom I have shared significant life journeys, who live in the same city but who I only see a couple of times a year. I know how to show up for parishioners who are in crisis at my church. I strive to never disappoint them even though I sometimes do. I give my heart and soul to being a pastor, but I cannot say the same about being a friend.

Perhaps I'm being hard on myself.

Or maybe I'm telling the truth.

Today is a new day. I'm going to call a friend to wish her "Happy Birthday." I'm going to get the 2017 calendar organized, noting special events in the lives of friends. I'm going to email another friend to make time to get together. I'm going to seek to approach friendship with the way I approach being a pastor.

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13).

This verse is an equally challenging invitation and one I'm going to accept. It's time to lay down a bit of my own life, a bit of my own priorities or desires, a bit of my busyness, and instead pay attention to my friends.

What about you? How would you respond to the question?

"Would you want yourself as a best friend?"

Monday, November 07, 2016

What Makes You Fully Alive?

I've reached my mid-life.

This knowledge didn't come progressively. Rather, it seems to have taken hold of me in the night.

A peaceful night's rest became consumed with one line of thinking, "Holy cow! I'm 44. How did this happen?"

I realize some people mark this milestone with a new sports car. I'm still content with my Honda.

Others might tip-toe into other forms of temptation. I've thankfully kept my feet planted.

But I am asking a lot of questions these days.

How do I want to spend this one, perfect life?

What mark do I most want to leave on this world?

How are my 24 or so remaining professional years to be most faithfully shared with the world around me?

I have come to realize that the more time I ask myself these questions, the more alive I become. There's something extraordinary about inviting your heart to ponder what makes it beat and sometimes skip a beat while asking your mind how much it's currently being stretched and how far you want to stretch it.

In the midst of my questions, I have also been reminded how many people around me are asking similar questions.

One of the early questions we ask children is, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" We find delight in their responses that seem to include every possibility under the sun.

When we are in high school, we talk with high school guidance counselors and complete different surveys designed to help us find the right place or forum in which to continue our education.

Some of us then go to college where we enroll in a few courses in hopes of being exposed to conversations that will help us select our major. We meet with an advisor, some of whom are more gifted than others, who helps us chart our class course.

But many of us found our first jobs by luck or circumstance and not any of the above.

For me, it was meeting Mrs. Clinton on the campaign trail in 1992, an interaction that led me to Washington as a White House intern in 1994 and then as a Congressional staffer. Few courses, if any, prepared me for this journey.

But life and its interactions did.

I love leadership. I love making a difference in the lives of others. I love politics - probably more than policy. I love being in the city. I love diversity. I love people. And, I love helping people become more fully alive.

These loves led me to accept my next invitations - personally and professionally - as I got more involved in my local church on Capitol Hill and then continued to apply for different jobs in Washington only to find myself later enrolling in seminary. A love of my seminary led to my returning to become its Director of Admissions. And then a conversation with a mentor opened the space for me to return to Washington to become the pastor of Mount Vernon Place.

It doesn't matter how old we are. Life continues to happen - in strange and hard, obvious and glorifying, routinized and transformational ways. Why, then, do we stop talking about vocation as we grow older? Why do we too often assume that people who are in one vocation at age 30 should remain in that same field at age 50? While some stories of God's call that are recorded in scripture happen when a person is a child, many of them take place when a person is at work, doing their thing, only to find God leading them in a new way.

Abraham Heschel wrote that we should "Live your life like a work of art."

Iranaeus of Lyon said, "The glory of God is manifest in a person fully alive."

Fredrick Beuchner suggested, "The place God calls you is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." (All of these quotes are taken from Mark Yaconelli's book, Wonder, Fear, and Longing.)

How is your life a work of art? How is it bringing beauty to the community?

What makes you fully alive? How much time are you spending doing what makes you feel this way?

What is your deep gladness? What deep hungers do you see in the world around you? How can you combine the two?

As a pastor, I'm recommitting myself to providing space for such conversations in our congregation. I know this intentional journeying with others is a part of my call that I have been neglecting and also something we need. I'm also committing to letting go of some things so I can invest more fully in what makes my heart sing and has the biggest impact on our community.

What would you do if you could do anything with your one, precious life?

What would make you more fully alive?

What's stopping you?

Monday, October 31, 2016

I'm With Him

"What does it mean to be a disciple?" I first asked to a group of new people at our church. People waited about 15 seconds before several responses were vocalized: faith in Jesus, love of neighbor, wanting to make a difference.

"Who do you look up to when it comes to being a model disciple of Jesus?" I later asked, expecting to hear beautiful responses about lives well lived. But the room became silent. People looked straight ahead or down at their workbooks, but no one spoke. 

After a few moments of silence that felt more like an eternity, one woman spoke up. "I've seen too much dichotomy between the pulpit and a person." Another person chimed in, sharing a few of the ways she was hurt by the church, feeling excluded instead of included. Others nodded their heads before someone asked me who I look up to as a model disciple of Jesus.

It didn't take long for me to start naming certain aspects of one's life. I described my Grandma Ivy as a person of prayer. Grandma was a regular viewer of shows like the 700 Club or the PTL Club. The television was set up in the kitchen, and if Grandma was not cooking, she was sitting in front of it praying. If someone prayed on television, she insisted that the room be silent and people pray along. There is something about her prayer life that moves me today as I realize how often I heard the language of prayer flow from her lips but cannot remember a time when slander or abusive language came from the same lips.

I then shared a glimpse of a dear clergy sister's prayer life. While other people regularly say, "I'm praying for you." My friend, A, will ask me a week later about the particular person or situation that was weighing heavy on my heart in a way that reminds me she was praying all week long, lifting my burden before the Lord.

And then I talked about a few people in our congregation who see serving others not as a practice but as a way of life. I offered a brief description of how our ministry with our unhoused neighbors has been strengthened by those who constantly show up for others, or give generously while naming that their family is larger than the people who live in the same house or have the same name. 

The more I reflected, the more it became clear that a model disciple isn't born that way and isn't perfect. Rather, they have taken on a series of characteristics or practices they seek to embody on a regular basis. They are people who understand how God has given them a powerful light that is not to be hidden under a bushel but rather shared with the community around them. 

We are in a season when many people have purchased t-shirts or bumper stickers with the simple words, "I'm with Her." They are words that proclaim who a person is voting for without even naming the candidate. When one wears such a shirt, one could conclude that the person is many things: a feminist, a Democrat, a supporter of Hillary, a liberal and so much more.

But what does it look like for us to live lives that point to our being with him - to our following Jesus in such a way that others can see who we are with by the lives we live? How is it that others can see who we follow not by what we wear, or the cross we place on our bumpers, but by what we say, what we do and how we love? 

Paul writes to the Colossians, "As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts..." (Col. 3:12-15). 

Few people in my life have all of these characteristics. But countless individuals in my community have a combination of them. Perhaps striving to exhibit one or two of them is a good starting place to show others that, "I'm really with him."

Let it be. Let it be. Let it be. Amen. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Yesterday's MVP Moment: A Testimony from an Incredibly Courageous Young Woman

One of our newest members shared these words in worship on September 18 and has given me permission to share them with you here. May they call you to prayer and deep reflection as you read them. And may we all seek to be part of a community that is showing up for each other in real and powerful ways. 

As many of you know, my life was turned upside down in January of this year when I was diagnosed with Stage III Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  It’s been hard to find the words to explain what it feels like to be told you have cancer at such a young age.  I know some of you have lived it, you don’t need me to tell you what it feels like.  But here I was, i the middle of all my plans, being told that life had already happened, that this might be all I get.

The best description I’ve heard comes from Kate Bowler, a Professor at Duke Divinity School fighting cancer.  She describes the moments after learning about her diagnosis as feeling like she was behind a pane of glass, and everyone she loved was on the other side.

Cancer is so isolating.  A lot of people just don’t know how to talk about it, so we don’t.  There aren’t enough words in this language or any other to explain the pinch of the needle or the rush of the dangerous radioactive drugs through your veins.  There aren’t enough words to describe the headache and the fog.  There aren’t words to explain the burn on your scalp when your hair starts falling out in chunks or the indignity of taking a lint roller to your head in the mornings in a vain attempt to contain the mess and pass for normal, healthy.  There are not words to explain to your 35 year-old friends what it feels like to be in chemically induced menopause, and there are no words to explain to your 50 year-old friends what it feels like to be 35 and know this.  There are not words to explain what it feels like to stand in a hotel room alone, unable to open the individual serving coffee or the tiny conditioner bottle, because the drugs have pushed back the cancer, but they’ve taken the feeling in your fingertips and your dexterity with them as they went.  And I really, honestly don’t have the words to describe the excitement and the fear of knowing that in a few short days, they will cut out the cancer and the rest of my breasts with it, and that my body will very clearly never be the same again.  But it doesn’t really matter if there are enough words, because even if there were, I’m too exhausted to explain it, too exhausted to answer the phone, too exhausted to carry on a conversation.  And anyway, no one wants to hear the messy details.  It’s awkward, and private, and gross.

But this place.  You people.  You have repeatedly broken that plate glass between us.  You knew that it was messy and ugly and private on the other side, and you kept breaking that glass anyway.  I protested, and I hid, and I didn’t answer the phone.  It was so hard to accept help, over and over again.  I mean, I wasn’t even a member for goodness sake, I wasn’t in your small group, I may not have even known your name.  And yet you kept knocking on that glass, with tiny rocks, and giant bricks, and sledgehammers.  And I didn’t feel so alone.  I was able to see a small glimmer of hope.  When the offers to help died away and everyone else was tired of talking about my cancer, you kept showing up.

When Donna talks about God living within you so that others can know Christ…this is it.  I get to bring my whole cancer-ridden, out of control life in here every week.  I don’t have to stop outside the door and pull myself together.  I don’t have to tell you everything is going great.  You don’t want me to sugar coat it for you.  You want to stand next to me in the mess and hold my hand.

And for that I will be forever grateful.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

The Politics of Jesus: Land of Plenty

Land of Plenty

Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 and Luke 9:10-17

            How much is enough?

            I wonder when you find yourself asking this question.

            Perhaps you asked it last night when you left a tip for your server after finishing your last bite of dessert following a fabulous dinner. You may have examined the total amount charged and pondered for a moment whether to tip on the pre-tax or the post-tax amount, especially since the food and beverage tax in Washington is 10%. After making this decision, you had to decide whether to tip 15 or 20% of the amount charged. And while these decisions take only a few minutes to make, there are many emotions that float through our minds while making them.

How much is enough for me to express my gratitude to this person who went out of her way to keep my water glass full?

How much is enough for my date to not think I’m cheap?

How much is enough to have in my wallet after leaving the tip since we’re going to get drinks next?

How much is enough for the server’s needs, given that this tip is part of the source of her livelihood?

What is enough?

How many of us have enough?

How many of us have more than enough?

How many of us do not have enough?

What would it take for every person to have enough?

People have been prone to taking more than enough, testing God’s definition of enough since the beginning of time.

In the Old Testament lesson read today, the Israelites have left Egypt and are on their way to the Promised Land when they start complaining and questioning God. “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Ex. 16:3).

The Lord hears their complaining and then makes a promise through Moses, stating how bread from heaven will soon arrive. And sure enough, the Israelites wake up to a fine, flaky substance covering the ground. Seeing the manna, Moses repeats the Lord’s commandments to take “as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person… all providing for those in their own tents” (Ex. 16:16). God has provided enough. The people simply have to take what they need. Still, many people fail to follow God’s instructions by taking more than they need for that day, and everything they take and do not consume breeds worms, becomes foul or melts.

God tests the Israelites. And the Israelites fail the test when they take more than enough. Indeed, much of what God gives provides an occasion for temptation – temptation most biblical characters cannot resist.

While I refuse to believe that God tests us with adversities or bad things to see how much we can handle, I cannot help but wonder if God tempts us with good things or tests us with abundance in order to see how we will respond – if we can handle the admonition to take just enough.

Does God watch to see if we have taken our fair share, the exact amount we need, while looking even harder to see what we do with our excess?

And I wonder what God thinks about the current state of our city where the persistent income inequality is one of the widest of any other major city in the nation?

According to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, “The average household income of the top 5 percent of District residents is $487,000” just under a half a million dollars, which is the third highest amount among large U.S. cities. At the same time, “The average income for the poorest fifth of DC residents fell to $9,300” in 2014.[1]

How many of us can imagine living on less than $10,000 a year? Twenty percent of the residents of our city are doing just that.

But the racial differences are even more striking. “DC’s lowest-income residents are overwhelmingly people of color, and nearly half were born in DC, compared with just 17 percent of other residents.”[2] While our economy is growing and many of us love all the changes in our city, long-term residents of color are being left behind. And in a city with rents rising rapidly to an average of $2,133 a month for a one-bedroom apartment,[3] roughly 45% of our households have incomes below $50,000.

While we cannot see everyone’s struggle to make ends meet, most of us see poverty every single day. And if the truth were told, there are times when I loathe walking to Chinatown because I don’t want to see the real need, the pain of it all.  

Shane Claiborne writes, “It’s really, really difficult to understand that there is a God who is good when everything around us is so ugly and broken. And it’s hard to understand that there is hope and life after death when so many people are going, ‘Well, is there life before death?’ and ‘If God really loves me, then why are my kids starving to death?’ And the incredible thing I think a lot of us have felt is….’ God why don’t you do something?”[4]

            Why is it ugly?

            Why is it broken?

            Why does God allow it?

            Why do I allow it?

Have we been seduced into thinking, “That’s just the way things are?”

Or are we willing to work towards a different reality?

            What would it take for us to embody and work towards an economy of love? It’s the economy God put in place in Exodus. In fact, God commands the Israelites to not take more than they need for each day before God even gives the Ten Commandments. Details regarding God’s economy, policies about what people are to do with what God has provided, fill the pages of scripture. Instructions about gleaning are found in Leviticus where people are told to leave fruit and vegetables from their crops on the edge of the land and avoid going through the fields a second time to get additional food but rather to leave this food for the poor to come and gather.[5]

            Words about how to practice jubilee are also found in Leviticus. Debts are to be forgiven every seventh year. Land is redistributed. If things have gotten too far off balance, then the inequality was dismantled at least once a decade.

            God teaches people how to handle what they been given. How, then did we get to the place where we are tempted to believe that theology, the study of God, is only about the internal life – things like meaning, purpose and value – and not what we do with our possessions as individuals and as a nation?

            One of my favorite interpretations of the Luke passage read today questions whether the miracle was in Jesus multiplying five loaves and two fish into enough food to feed 5000 people or whether the miracle is people seeing the power of community. The disciples want to send the crowds away to fend for themselves through private means. But Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.” The disciples see scarcity, and Jesus sees abundance. The miracle happens when Jesus invites people to sit down in groups of 50 each. Soon all are fed, and there are 12 baskets of food leftover.

Is the miracle multiplication, or is the miracle people seeing each other and wanting to care for each other?

Is the miracle multiplication, or is the miracle people taking a smaller portion so all can be fed?

Is the miracle multiplication, or is the miracle people admitting that they have a little food in their backpacks and are willing to share it now that they know one another?

What could we do to embody this miracle today?

One theologian has suggested that if every Christian in North America tithed, the church could feed every hungry person, fund basic education for all the world’s children, and have enough left over to fund the evangelistic ministries of the church.[6] Hundreds of individuals are then trying to figure out if this person is telling the truth by participating in an organization called the Relational Tithe. Participants give 10% of their income to meet the real needs of people with whom they are in community. Similar to what happen in our gospel lesson today, something powerful happens when people live and give in community. In the short period of time people have been embodying the relational tithe, one specific group has “provided sustainable job creation in Philadelphia, basic food needs in the Caribbean, transportation for a single parent in California, housing in Cairo, microenterprise development in Nigeria…health care in North Carolina, and a proper funeral for a thirteen-year-old Sudanese refugee from Nebraska.”[7]

I’d love to be part of such a community on a micro level, expanding my notion of family to include so many more people.

But what do we do on a macro level?

Douglas Meeks explains how the Greek word oikonomia from which we derive the word economy, is a compound of oikos which means household and nomos which is law or management. Economy is the management of the household, a group of people living together, a community. The care of the community is central to how God sees the purpose of the economy. But today, the care of the community is no longer the center of our economy. Instead, “Accumulation of wealth and exchange have replaced livelihood as the center of economy,” writes Meeks before adding, “The values of our economic organization are often held higher than human dignity.”[8] Furthermore, most people view the economy through the lens of scarcity, the never enough syndrome, instead of believing there is more than enough. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove hits the nail on the head when he says, “People are rich and people are poor, but no one is satisfied.”[9]

But God says something completely different. The story of our faith is a story that believes there is always enough to go around whenever God is present. We have a foretaste of God’s economy each time we come to the table, a place where all are welcome and no one is turned away. It is this table where all are fed the same amount of food and drink and where all are satisfied. And while we have run out of fried chicken at a potluck anytime someone does not give each person one piece of chicken at a time, we have not once run out of bread at this table.

There is always enough at God’s table.

There is always enough in God’s economy.

Parker Palmer suggests that one of the essential habits of the heart for sustaining a democracy is the belief that we are all in this together. We are dependent and accountable to one another.[10]

God has provided more than enough. The instructions we have been given are clear. God says “Take what you need” in the Old Testament passage, and Jesus says “You. You give them something to eat” in the gospel. In both cases everyone is fed, and everyone is taken care of.

What would such a life look like if fully practiced not just in our families and sometimes in our church but on a local, national and international scale?

How can we get there because that’s the politics of Jesus?

[4] Shane Claiborne and Isaac Anderson, Economy of Love (Relational Tithe, Inc. 2010), 18.
[5] Leviticus 19:9-10 and 23:22.
[6] Claiborne, 89.
[7] Claiborne, 111.
[8] Douglas Meeks, God the Economist (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), 4.
[9] Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, God’s Economy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009) 45.
[10] Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011), 44.