Saturday, June 08, 2013

Last Chance

It's a gift to step away from your congregation with the knowledge that the people who are covering you are better at your job than you are. My mentor and friend Peter Storey is now covering our pulpit until July 7. Peter brings many gifts that I don't have. His voice brings a message that places people in the Spirit's direct line of fire. His journey is one filled with risks taken in the name of Jesus. His love of Jesus and his message far outweighs his desire or need to satisfy the expectations of the religious institution that requires us to report numerical statistics each week. Peter knows Jesus better than most people in my life, and I love hearing Peter tell the stories of Jesus.

I gathered with a small group on Sunday evening to listen to Peter's first teaching session with our church. Many of the things he said are things I heard when I was his student at Duke Divinity School. But the lesson entered my heart differently this time as my context is radically different. What he said matters in a way it did not matter before.

"What we saw this morning is God's best, last chance at healing the world," Peter said, referring to the 124 people who filled the pews on Sunday morning.

Wow. Crap. How can it be?

How can we be God's last chance at healing the world? How can we be the vehicle God most wants to use to bring about healing? God, surely there is another way for you to end homelessness in Washington, to bridge the gap between those who have and those who have not, to make sure every child receives a quality education, to fill bellies that are empty, to provide community to those who only know the emotion of loneliness, to end violence on our streets, to welcome the outsider whether they are documented or not, to bring together that which is separated. Do you really expect us to do these things?

Peter then shared how God is more interested in verbs than in nouns. Our God is a doing God, and the church must be a people who do - a group called into action - out of the pews and into the world.

The church is called to do four things well: proclaim, teach, live the true community and serve.

We must tell the story in a way that arrests people who hear the story of Jesus. We must speak prophetically into current situations. We must proclaim the good news at every opportunity with our words, our actions and even our buildings.

We must teach in ways that grow people, challenge people, transform people and mobilize people.

We must live the true community by demonstrating the transforming and reconciling presence of Christ in the lifestyle of the community, loving each other in a way that commands wonder, love and joy.

And we must serve Christ where we meet Christ - in the suffering, pain, oppression and need of his brothers and sisters - those whom we see as "the least of these" in the world.

God is rather serious about the church - the body of Christ on this world. We cannot simply show up for one hour each week and then go about our business as if we matter most. Our faith is one that should fill not only our souls and spirits but our hands, our feet, our mouths, our ears, and every resource God has entrusted to our care.

All of this learning is from the first night. Imagine what he will share on the remaining five Sundays.

Almighty God, thank you for the amazing people who you have sent to share your good news to Mount Vernon Place this summer. We are grateful for the prophets in our midst and pray you would use each one to help us be ready to proclaim, teach, live the true community, and serve. Help us to fully comprehend what it means for us to be your best, last chance at healing the world. There is so much pain in our city. There is much that is broken and in need of being fixed. Let us not shy away from the opportunity to be part of your efforts to heal. Let us be prophetic. Let us be faithful. Let us be a people who are mobilized to seek your kingdom before any other thing. Bless your people who gather at the corner of 9th and Mass. Enable them to have a summer of a lifetime so that others might be able to experience life more fully. Amen. 

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