Sunday, April 28, 2013

us and them--a sermon for Easter 5C, celebrating the ministry of PADS (public action to deliver shelter)

Rev. Teri Peterson
PCOP
us and them
PADS celebration day
Acts 11.1-18
28 April 2013, Easter 5C

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

~~~~~~~

There are two kinds of people in the world: rule followers and rule breakers.

Now of course there are some rules that need to be broken, and some that need to be followed. I’m not suggesting that all rule breakers drive faster than the speed limit on the wrong side of the road while not wearing a seat belt. Nor am I suggestion that all rule followers blindly do whatever they’re told. So maybe there’s more of a spectrum, and some days we lean more toward one side or the other.

Peter was pretty much a rule follower. Throughout his years with Jesus he was always looking for just the right thing to say, reminding Jesus to pay taxes, and even trying to stay within the letter of the law when it came to whether he knew Jesus or not. And now we find him trying to follow the rules even in the midst of prayer.

In the book of Leviticus, there are all kinds of rules for life, including personal hygiene, how we live our private lives, how we live our public lives, who we can be friends with, politics, and, of course, food. We know about the prohibition on bacon and lobster, but we probably forget about the prohibition on alligator, ostrich, scallops, and rabbit. It’s a pretty extensive list to memorize if you’re going to follow all the rules. But even in the midst of a prayer-vision, Peter knows that the things the Holy Spirit tells him to eat are an abomination—it says so in Leviticus! And worse: he has to choose which disgusting thing to eat, then catch it from the blanket petting zoo and kill it, presumably prepare it, and then eat it—breaking every possible purity code on the books. He must have thought this was a temptation story like the one of Jesus in the wilderness, so naturally, he resists.

Then comes the surprise. “What God has called clean you must not call profane.” Three times—the holy number—and then it’s over. And just as Peter is congratulating himself on a temptation well survived, the unclean people start to show up. Not just any unclean people, either—Gentiles. I mean, they can’t help being abhorrent and impure, but we still shouldn’t be talking to them. Those are the rules.

This time, though, when the Spirit says “go,” Peter goes, having learned that there is no distinction between “them” and “us.”

Now, when the leaders in Jerusalem hear it, they’re outraged. How could he go eat with unclean, uncircumcised gentiles? He knows the rules. They know the rules. So when he gets home, they summon him for public criticism and questioning. Everyone clearly knows what’s right and what’s wrong—and who’s right and who’s wrong—in this situation.

The trouble is, as Buffy the vampire slayer will remind you anytime you ask her, is that “it’s not about right, not about wrong—it’s about power.” Who has it, who wants it, and how you use it. Peter had an experience that showed him who had the power, and it wasn’t him. When he told the story, the church leaders in Jerusalem heard who had the power, and it wasn’t them. This is a huge change, a turning of the world. It turns out that the institutions—the Jewish Temple, the Roman Empire, even the Church, don’t have the power. They don’t have the power to determine what’s right and wrong, who’s in and who’s out, or to control the Spirit. Only God has the power. The Spirit blows where she will. Peter and the church leaders were moved to silence by this realization—because what can you say? Only the words of Peter seem to work: “who was I that I could hinder God?”

There’s something comforting about being the “us”—it allows us to feel like the heroes who provide for “them,” it allows us to subtly pass judgment, it offers us a constant reminder of how lucky we are, and it gives us a sense of power.

But the Spirit says not to make a distinction between “us” and “them”—and when we do, we hinder God’s work.

Now, those rules in Leviticus were designed to distinguish God’s people from everyone else—to create an us and a them. But there’s a new calling emerging with Jesus and those who follow him. Paul’s letters teach that “there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female” and that Christ breaks down every wall that divides us. Jesus spent his time with “them” and it made the “us” of his day very angry. And nowhere—in the old or the new testament—is there any endorsement of our superiority over others. Even in the holiness code of Leviticus, the epitome of the us-and-them rules, there’s still a constant refrain of welcoming the outsider, treating foreigners equally, and ensuring enough for everyone. Even in the middle of the document that sets the Jews apart from everyone else, there’s pointed concern for inclusion. Now we find God on the rooftop, expanding and morphing that call to hospitality until it erases the us-and-them, changing the tune from one of separation to one of oneness in Christ.

This is our rooftop moment—the moment when we look at the world around us, the world inside our doors, the world that sleeps in our basement, the world that cries out for justice and peace and hope and love, and acknowledge our calling to live with “no distinction between them and us.” There is no longer American and foreigner, there is no longer homeless and housed, there is no longer gay and straight, for all are one in Christ Jesus, who breaks down the walls that divide us.

Those walls are breaking down right here in our building, every Wednesday night. People come together and are treated with dignity and compassion. People eat together and talk together and help each other with whatever they need. I’d like to think we offer this space and time not because “we” want to feel good about helping “them,” not because we pity those “less fortunate,” but because we see a glimpse of the kingdom of God, where people come from north and south, east and west, to sit at a table where there is no us and them, only children of God. To sit at a table that has nothing to do with our power and everything to do with God’s power.

Let’s hear a little from Jay, the PADS ministry team leader, about what God has done this season.

God’s power is at work in this place. So often humans like to think we can do all things, but scripture reminds us that we can do all things “through Christ.” Our job is to create a welcoming space where all can see the love of God at work, where all can know they are one of us, children of God. Our job is to be a conduit for grace and peace and hope to flow into the lives of those God brings through our doors. Our job is to offer both a safe place and a sacred place—and it takes all of us praying and participating to make the love of God visible every week. It takes all of us leaning on God’s love rather than on our own walls of rules, in order that God can turn our sandwich meat and blankets and hours of wakefulness into the kingdom of God on earth.

So let’s take a minute to look at what God has done and how God has used us this year.
• If you have brought, cooked, or served food this PADS season, please stand. You have been bearers of manna in the wilderness.
• If you have donated for new pads, supplies, or to replace our linen, please stand. You have been comfort in hard places.
• If you have created art, set tables, made cards, or otherwise helped beautify the space downstairs, please stand. You have been secret agents of God’s amazing hospitality, creating a place where people feel their value as children of God.
• If you have worked a shift on a Wednesday night here or any night somewhere else, please stand. You have been the face of God, the breath of the Spirit, the love of Christ that moves in the dark and offers rest to the weary, hope to the hopeless, compassion to the downtrodden, grace to the despairing.
• If you have prayed for those in our shelter and those still on the street, or if you have prayed for the volunteers, please stand. You have been the foundation of this ministry, holding us up, filling us with God’s power. This could not be done without you.
• Lastly, we could not do this without our building. This house of the church is a literal shelter for people. If you have ever given time or resources to take care of this building, or if you have pledged or put money in the offering, you have supported this ministry in a real and tangible way. If you’re not already standing, please do. You have been the living stones that create a welcoming home for all God’s people.

Look around and notice: this is a ministry of all God’s people—not us and them, but the whole body together. God is doing amazing things in and through us. May we continue to lean on God’s power, in order that the kingdom may come.

Amen.

Monday, April 22, 2013

writing writing writing

So, I've done it again. I've accidentally (or by not paying attention) committed myself to a bunch of different things that all require a fair amount of effort, and then I've gone and waited until the week they're due to actually write them. (well, "waited" is probably a strong term. More like "got busy and pushed it to the bottom of the to-do list.")

And now every person who has ever been my roommate, boyfriend, parent, sibling, or close friend is nodding their head in acknowledgement and shaking their head in despair: haven't I managed to grow up or change just a little in all these years?

Apparently not.

So for the next 8 days you'll find me furiously scribbling, frantically typing, and shedding many a tear over the beautiful words that have to be cut to fit a maximum word count or to make something more clear to readers who are not me or my best friend.

Which means one of two things will happen: either I'll blog a lot this week, as a procrastination tool that I can reasonably pretend is "inspiration" or "priming the pump" or something, OR my blog will be completely silent...not because I'm using my time more wisely, but because a blank screen in Word and a blank screen in Blogger are both insurmountable problems.

Having said that, if you want to see some of the work that I did in a similar state of word count despair last year, it's published here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Five: healing spaces

Deb over at RGBP is "an enthusiastic newspaper reader. Lately, however, world events have made it hard to read and process the pain in the world around me. Perhaps you have struggled with this, too. So, with the events of the violence and tragedy from the Boston Marathon fresh in our memories, I thought it would be good for us to focus on where as RevGalBlogPals, we find healing, peace and strengthening. As a chaplain, there are days where I never seem to catch my breath, and invariably, those are the days that I need it the most!"

 So with all this in mind, share with us these healing things:

1. A piece of music 
hmmm....I think I have several go-tos, depending on the situation. probably here first:

But I might pull out the Indigo Girls. Or a Mozart piano concerto. Or the music for this Sunday. Or I might decide to go with a podcast instead, because learning something new helps my brain let go of some of the crazy badness all around.

 2. A place 
Port Ban, on the west side of Iona

 3. A favorite food (they call it "comfort food" for a reason) 
Mashed potatoes. Mac-n-cheese. things with carbs. But also veggie enchiladas, refried beans...things my mom used to make. (and if anyone says "salad" in the comments...well...I'll try to remain non-violent.)

 4. A recreational pastime (that you watch or participate in) 
reading reading reading! Weeks like this make me want to hibernate--curl up on the couch with a good book, a cat, and a cup of tea. Luckily, I have a stack of books...unluckily, a day or two of hibernating is not on the schedule, even if it is decidedly un-spring-like outside.

 5. A poem, Scripture passage or other literature that speaks to comfort you. 
The end of T.S. Eliot's "Little Gidding"...
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
 Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
 BONUS: People, animals, friends, family - share a picture of one or many of these who warm your heart.
andrew

ollie


Gao Gao, panda papa of the San Diego Zoo

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

beyond Boston

I've been trying to figure out how to express what I've been thinking about the aftermath of Monday's bombing in Boston. So this post may not make any sense, because I'm essentially thinking out loud.

First and most obvious: this is a tragedy, it's horrific, and I can hardly believe that people do this kind of thing. Even though it happens all over the world regularly, and even though more people die on the streets of Chicago every day, I still cannot get my head around the fact that people commit heinous acts of violence. Add in the marathon and it just seems like such a cruel joke: hey, you're such an awesome runner, you qualified for the most famous marathon! And then after 26 miles, just yards from the finish, you lost a leg. Almost as good as a medal, right? UGH. so much ridiculous and horrifying.

But then the news coverage and the conversation that comes after...

And it comes this way after every tragedy. But this time it just seems more blatant.

talking to people in London: "are you seeing runners pulling out of this weekend's marathon? How are you going to secure the course?"
talking to runners: "does this make you think twice about running another race?"
callers to a local radio show: "I won't want my family coming out to cheer, but I'll run again."

over and over, this sense of using this event to determine our future behavior...

This is the DEFINITION of terrorism. Using a tactic that makes us afraid to do things we would normally do, or that we love to do.

I want to know things like: was the marathon the purpose or convenient? (i.e.: it's hard to imagine that someone was all "hey, I know, I'll make a point by blowing up runners." marathons are popular, but it's not THAT popular. and the bombs were set at a time that the "regular" runners (ie not the famous winners) would be affected, near the end of the race) Could it be that the bomber wasn't working out aggression against distance running, but simply used the famous event to get attention for something else? It's also Patriot Day, and tax day, and who knows what other issue might have been affecting him/her/them...let's not jump to conclusions.

But most of all, I want us to think about the questions we're asking, and the ways we're modifying our lives. Especially in light of the fact that 20 dead school children can't even sustain a national conversation about gun violence for a quarter. We are already incredibly reactionary about any number of things, from airport security to water bottles. If we're going to start calling off sporting events, or insisting people not congregate, or whatever...haven't we in fact just ceded all the power to the terrorist?

And once we're considering that language we use, let's include in the consideration the fact that in other parts of the world these things happen every day and people continue to run, work, play, travel, eat, have families, and generally go about life. I'm not minimizing the trauma or seriousness of this event *or of those that happen every day around the world.* I am trying to suggest that our questions reveal a privileged existence: that we think we could get away from the dark side of life, that we believe ourselves protected from the brokenness of the world.

These are the questions of a privileged few. Elsewhere, and in the majority-underbelly of our cities, people are asking "how do we live life to the fullest, follow our passions, feed our families, and care for each other, even in the midst of the suffering?" because suffering is a fact of life. sin and brokenness are a fact of life. Safety is an illusion and the more we cling to it, the more shocked we will be when these things happen.

I'm not suggesting that we ignore security precautions. I am suggesting that we have trusted in them far too much, and it has made us even less secure. Our privilege has made us blind, and ultimately we are far more easily terrorized.

(see, I told you it was thinking out loud and rambling incoherently.)

Monday, April 15, 2013

the cost of society

In the USA, it's Tax Day--the day when millions of people who waited until the last minute panic about all the forms and whether they have they money to pay what they owe, or when they rejoice about the money they've loaned the government over the past year being returned to them.

For the first time this year I filed my taxes ahead of the deadline and paid on time. It's an Easter season miracle.

Tax season threatens to overshadow the Easter season this year (and most years, due to the vagaries of the lunar calendar!). It's the time when we traditionally complain about the complexities of the tax code, the fact that so many of us need professionals just to navigate the forms, and of course we like nothing more than to complain about how much money we give to the government and to lament the ways in which they mis-spend our hard earned dollars.

Of course, we all pay taxes every day, because most of us live in places with sales tax and gas tax and property tax and various vice taxes. We all have a stake in the tax reality. But today is federal (and state) income tax filing deadline, so we're focused particularly on one type of tax, which about half the country pays. I heard a really interesting story on the radio today about the history of taxation in the US, that included the little tidbit that the income tax, when instituted via Constitutional amendment in 1913, originally applied to only about 4% of the population--just the very wealthy. It was during WWII that the income tax expanded to apply to about 44% of the population--just slightly lower than today. Of course, in those days we weren't paying all those other kinds of taxes. But the story said that people paid it relatively willingly, because with a war on they could SEE where their money was going, and they knew it was important.

It's harder today to see exactly where money goes, I suppose. I'm sure there's waste and mis-spent money. I suspect that's a smaller amount than most of us want to believe. Because really, let's just be honest: living in a society costs money. It can be expensive to run a 350-million member community across thousands and thousands of miles, especially when that community is active in any number of other communities around the world. Do we need more transparency? Yes. Do we also need to learn to trust just a little? yes. (aside: as much as I would like to be able to designate my taxes for things I care about, or rather to NOT be used for things I find objectionable, the reality is that a system like that would be even more problematic on a government scale than it is on a church/non-profit scale...and the whole designated-giving thing has been a *nightmare* for the church. Can you trust us to use money where it's most needed, to do the most good? What would happen if we expected that from the government too?)

I really appreciate having things like roads and train tracks and policemen and fire departments. I want children to be educated so they can create an even better future for this country and this world. I want clean air and clean water, standards for our industries, and someone else to negotiate with the people from other countries about any number of things, from banana imports to nuclear disarmament. I believe it's our collective responsibility to care for one another and for the natural resources we have been gifted, and to ensure that we leave future generations a land and a culture worth living in, so I long for the day when tax dollars are used to help people get training, education, housing, food, and the resources necessary to help them stand and contribute to that future. I like having controllers who know where all the airplanes are, a corps of brilliant engineers who can keep traffic moving even on a drought-depleted Mississippi, and a National Guard ready to step in when there's a disaster or a need. I appreciate people who inspect bridges, fill potholes, and welcome me to beautifully conserved National Parks. I want people to be looking into just what the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries are trying to sell into our bodies before we can buy things at the store. I want laws that create the boundaries of a society in which we all thrive.

I expect a lot from the government. I don't think they always deliver, but I think they do a whole heck of a lot better job than 350 million individuals working on their own and for their own agendas. And remember: we're pioneering the BY/OF/FOR model of government here--so it's not just "the government" doing things with "my" tax money. I live in this society. I am an active participant in the government, through my vote and my voice. When we pool our resources, we can do amazing good. Let's hold our government accountable to working for the common good even as we pay the dues of civilization.

Friday, April 12, 2013

make believe

The other day I was telling someone about a really terrible novel I'd just finished. I promised myself months ago that I would no longer force myself to finish books that are not good (there's only one or maybe two books I've ever left unfinished, ever). But this one was a mystery and my desire to find out what happened overruled the mediocre prose, shallow characters, and tenuous grip on the setting.

The person asked if I often read fiction. Oh yes...I read a lot of fiction. Much of it mediocre, but much of it deliciously wonderful too.

Another conversation this week circled around ideas for what my therapist calls "filling your pitcher." Because we can't pour ourselves out for others if our pitcher is empty. And pouring everything out and leaving nothing for ourselves is not exactly a recipe for sustainable serving, let alone a healthy life. A quote I put on the church facebook page said "I cannot give any more than I have. And if I am not soaked in the love of God, it is very hard to pass that on." (~Bo Karen Lee)  What she said.

Fiction is one of the ways I fill my pitcher. I devour books, trying to get inside the minds of characters, wandering with them through faraway landscapes and interesting times. I'm currently trying not to read too fast on a second draft of a fantastic novel a friend has written. I may have to resign myself to devouring it and then going back to read more slowly for editing. :-) I'm also midway through the Game of Thrones series--just finished book 2. And my book group is reading A Casual Vacancy (the not-at-all-Harry-Potter adult novel by JKR). These books are all SO SO DIFFERENT. Add in the serious novel at my bedside, and the young adult novels that take place in Disneyworld that I just picked up today, and we have a recipe for filling my pitcher. Of course, I may never leave my house again because I'm busy curled up with a book.

Other things I like to do to fill my pitcher: cook. Watch kids movies. Praying in Color. classical music. Stuff You Missed In History Class podcasts. massage. sometimes blog.

I like to pretend that exercise fills my pitcher, and serious intense dramas that win foreign film awards, and other things that cool smart people spend their time talking about and being proud of doing...but really my soul needs more frills than that, because much of my work is intense. Once I realized that it was okay to revel in a princess book and a Pixar movie, that it was okay to just re-read Isaiah 55 and Mark 2 hundreds of times, that I could just relax because who was out there judging my self-care anyway??....well, life just got a lot better.

It's not that I don't enjoy serious movies or thought-provoking nonfiction, it's just that those things are not my go-to stress relievers. They drain my pitcher, not fill it.

What do you do to fill your pitcher?






Thursday, April 04, 2013

a train adventure!

I've been playing Ticket To Ride with some friends lately. It's super-fun. It doesn't quite indulge my travel bug, but it does indulge my board game bug. :)

This weekend I'm taking a real-live Ticket to Ride adventure, hopping on an Amtrak train to St. Louis for the wedding of a dear friend. I'm excited about the opportunity to spend that 6 hours reading or napping rather than driving and desperately trying to stay awake. I'm also excited that the cost of a round trip train ticket is awfully close to the cost of one tank of gas (and I'd surely need a few to get there and back, even in my awesomely fuel-efficient car).

I haven't taken Amtrak before. I've had a couple of Greyhound Adventures in my life. I've had ScotRail adventures and EurRail adventures and more than enough EgyptRail adventures to last me a good long while. I'm still waiting for the day we wise up to the wonders of high speed rail in this country--I should be able to train to St. Louis faster than I could drive...but I'll take the same length of time in this case. For longer distances though...seriously? It should not take 3 days to go up the coast. It just shouldn't.

So, anyway, I'm away on a train adventure. I hope it's as exciting as the game! Though I also hope I win (aka get there safely and in a timely manner) more often than I win at Ticket To Ride. So far I'm 0-5 on TTR, while my lovely friend Laura complains through the whole game about how terrible her hand is but she wins basically every time, by double digits. I'm hoping that this particular train adventure will not be the cause of any whining, by me or by others. :-)

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

liberty

I can't go anywhere without seeing a car with one of these magnets on the bumper:


They started appearing about a year ago, and it turns out they were mailed out by the local Roman Catholic archdiocese to several thousand people in our area. Which explains why when I try to talk about them to people who don't live here, they have no idea what I'm talking about.

The trouble is, I look at that and even *I*, who can see the magnet, have a hard time understanding what they're talking about.

I mean, the whole point of religious liberty is that the statue of liberty doesn't stand for only one religious tradition. So why does she have a cross?

How come there aren't symbols for several different religions along those stripes?
...

...

...

...

...

Oh...right...because you don't actually mean religious liberty--you mean that we all conform to YOUR religion.

Newsflash: that has nothing to do with religion or liberty. That's only about imposing your way on the whole country, which is explicitly the opposite of the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of religion.

In other words, if this same image, but with a crescent instead of a cross, were plastered on 10,000 cars in northern Illinois, there would be screaming about infringement of our right to religious freedom. But if it has a cross, somehow that's okay?

Also, seriously? There is NOT a war on Christianity in this country. You know how I can tell? The Stock Market was closed for Good Friday. Seriously. Not for Passover, not for the prophet's birthday...for Good Friday. And people get off work for Good Friday. Including Congress, who go home for Holy Week and Easter week. There are some school districts that are still giving kids off Easter Monday. That's not even an actual holiday.

Looks to me like our religious liberty as Christians is alive and well. I'm concerned about the religious liberty of some of my neighbors and friends, though.

I am so tired of the level of cognitive dissonance with which human beings seem able to live. How do we not see the inconsistency of something like this? It's an untenable paradox, right there on the bumper of your car.

Pretty sure I'm going to need to find a way to send out 10,000 of this one instead. I mean, really.






Tuesday, April 02, 2013

mission...

I really hope we see the problem here....

It's no secret that I love church.
It's also no secret that sometimes I hate church.
It's the very definition of a love-hate relationship: I love the potential, the people, the wonder, the possibility, the vibe, the great things we do, the space for transformation, the message of kingdom life, and so much more...and I hate sometimes the things we get fixated on. So often The Church (this is true of pretty much every congregation I've ever been in, including a really big one) is busy thinking about how to get more people and more dollars inside the doors. Now granted, we do incredible things with your money and your time/talents/energy. And we need them, because there's lots to be done in the world. But sometimes it feels like we need the dollars and the people just to keep existing.

And then we get into these conversations, out in everyday life--where *finally* someone has asked us about church or life or something that allows us to talk about our faith, and we end up saying things like "well, I'm on the _____ committee." It doesn't matter what you say in the next sentence, I promise. Only the most committed of friends is still listening.


One of my favorite things about Missional Renaissance is the phrase "God is on mission."

Not like on the mission committee, but rather focused, on-task, keeping the work going.

Then the question is: are we on mission too? Are we on task? Or are we lost in our own plans, ideas, dreams, fears, expectations? Whose mission are we on?

I spend a lot of time trying to explore with people the idea that it's GOD'S mission and GOD'S church, and if we're not on mission then it doesn't matter at all whether we have the best Sunday School or the most engaging preaching or the flashiest service or the small groups that serve my needs. All that will matter is that we've left the Spirit somewhere, looking longingly after us as we go down a path we chose for ourselves, wondering if we'll look back and notice that she's beckoning us to another way.

Lots of churches--maybe even all churches (well, maybe not Quakers?)--are so invested in figuring out how to get people into the building that we've forgotten that God doesn't actually live inside the walls.** Meanwhile, God is waiting for the moment we set aside those things that are so important to US long enough to find out what's important to GOD.

Sometimes we may find that we're on the right track after all, and we can pick that project up and run with it, fueled by the steam of the Spirit.

Oftentimes I suspect we'll find that we're in uncomfortable territory, wandering into the unknown.

Which, I'm pretty sure, is a story in the Bible somewhere.....

God is on mission. Are we?







**note: I am not saying, in this post, that we don't care whether people come to church. I care deeply about whether people come to church--because I want for people to experience God in community, to worship together, to lift their voices in song (which we don't do anywhere else anymore), to seek faithfulness together. I am saying that sometimes those things happen outside the church building, because The Church is where The People are.