Monday, August 8, 2016

WMTRBW Retrospective 2: Alive in the Adventure of Jesus

As we read the final chapter of  We Make the Road by Walking this week, let's continue our review of where we've been, this time through the story of Jesus. Here are the bulletin cover quotes from our second quarter--Alive in the Adventure of Jesus. What do these words teach you about what it means to live by the story of Jesus? Which quote is most meaningful to you? Again, I'd love to hear your reflections as this journey reaches its ending and our journey beyond the book is just beginning!

To be alive in the adventure of Jesus is to have a desire, a dream, a hope for the future. It is to translate that hope for the future into action in the present and to keep acting in light of it, no matter the disappointments, no matter the setbacks and delays. So let us begin this Advent season by lighting a candle for the prophets who proclaimed their hopes, desires, and dreams. Let us keep their flame glowing strong in our hearts, even now.

In this Advent season— this season of awaiting and pondering the coming of God in Christ— let us light a candle for Mary. And let us, in our own hearts, dare to believe the impossible by surrendering ourselves to God, courageously cooperating with God’s creative power— in us, for us, and through us. If we do, then we, like Mary, will become pregnant with holy aliveness.

To be alive in the adventure of Jesus is to face at every turn the destructive reality of violence. To be alive in the adventure of Jesus is to side with vulnerable children in defiance of the adults who see them as expendable. To walk the road with Jesus is to withhold consent and cooperation from the powerful, and to invest it instead with the vulnerable. It is to refuse to bow to all the Herods and all their ruthless regimes— and to reserve our loyalty for a better king and a better kingdom.

So let us light a candle for surprising people like the women of the ancestor lists and the shepherds of the ancient world, and for their counterparts today— all who are marginalized, dispossessed, vulnerable, hungry for good nutrition, thirsty for drinkable water, desperate to know they are not forgotten. Let us join them in their vigil of hope— waiting for good news of great joy for all people, all people, all people.

So let us light a candle for the Christ child, for the infant Jesus, the Word made flesh. Let our hearts glow with that light that was in him, so that we become candles through which his light shines still. For Christmas is a process as well as an event. Your heart and mine can become the little town, the stable, the manger… even now. Let a new day, a new creation, a new you, and new me, begin. Let there be light.

Gift-giving, it turns out, was at the heart of all Jesus would say and do. God is like a parent, Jesus would teach, who loves to shower sons and daughters with good gifts. The kingdom or commonwealth of God that Jesus constantly proclaimed was characterized by an abundant, gracious, extravagant economy of grace, of generosity, of gift-giving. “It is better to give than to receive,” Jesus taught, and his followers came to understand Jesus himself as a gift expressing God’s love to the whole world.

Jesus [came] of age and stepped onto the stage: a man with a dovelike spirit, a man with the gentleness of a lamb, a man of peace whose identity was rooted in this profound reality: God’s beloved child. When we awaken within that deep relationship of mutual love and pleasure, we are ready to join in God’s peace movement today— an adventure of protest, hope, and creative, nonviolent, world-transforming change.

To be alive in the adventure of Jesus is to hear that challenging good news today, and to receive that thrilling invitation to follow him… and to take the first intrepid step on the road as a disciple.

Perhaps a miracle story is meant to shake up our normal assumptions, inspire our imagination about the present and the future, and make it possible for us to see something we couldn’t see before… Perhaps, by challenging us to consider impossible possibilities, these stories can stretch our imagination, and in so doing, can empower us to play a catalytic role in co-creating new possibilities for the world of tomorrow.

To be alive in the adventure of Jesus is to stand with the multitudes, even if doing so means being marginalized, criticized, and misunderstood right along with them.

Violence cannot defeat violence. Hate cannot defeat hate. Fear cannot defeat fear. Domination cannot defeat domination. God’s way is different. God must achieve victory through defeat, glory through shame, strength through weakness, leadership through servanthood, and life through death. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

WMTRBW Retrospective 1: Alive in the Story of Creation

As we come up on our last week (!) of our year-long journey through We Make the Road by Walking, I thought I would kind of take us on a review by means of the quotes we've had on the front of our bulletins these last 52 weeks. Each week, I've chosen a quote from the chapter that seems particularly meaningful to put on the front of our bulletin. Here are the ones from the first quarter of the book--Alive in the Story of Creation. What do these words teach you about what it means to be truly alive? Which quote is most meaningful to you? I'd love to hear your reflections as this journey reaches its ending and our journey beyond the book is just beginning!

To be alive means to bear responsibly the image of God. It means to stretch out your hand to take from the Tree of Aliveness—and to join in God’s creative, healing work.

To be alive is to be mindful that we live in the drama of desire. We can imitate one another’s competitive desires, and so be driven to fear, rivalry, judging, conflict, and killing. Or we can imitate God’s generous desires… to create, bless, help, serve, care for, save, and enjoy.

To be alive is to believe that injustice is not sustainable and to share God’s desire for a better world. To be alive is to look at our world and say, “God is better than that!”— and know that our world can be better, too. And so can we.

God tells this couple to leave their life of privilege in this great civilization [and] sends them out into the unknown as wanderers and adventurers. No longer will Abram and Sara have the armies and wealth and comforts of Ur at their disposal. All they will have is a promise—that God will be with them and show them a better way. From now on, they will make a new road by walking.

In spite of long delays and many disappointments, will we dare to keep dreaming impossible dreams? In spite of the assumptions that everyone around us holds to be true, will we dare to ask new questions and make new discoveries—including lessons about God and what God really desires? It may seem as if it’s too late to keep hoping, to keep trying, to keep learning, to keep growing. But to be alive in the story of creation means daring to believe it’s not too late.

If we want to reflect the image of God, 
we will choose grace over hostility, 
reconciliation over revenge, 
and equality over rivalry. 
When we make that choice,
 we encounter God in the faces of 
our former rivals and enemies. 
And as we are humbled, surrendering to God 
and seeking to be reconciled with others,
 our faces, too, reflect the face of God. 
We come alive as God’s image bearers indeed.

Name the Hebrew slaves of today’s world. Who today is being exploited and crying out for help? Who does backbreaking work for which others reap the rewards? How can we join in solidarity with them, seeking liberation?

Through the ten plagues, we might say, God got the people out of slavery. Through the ten commands, God got the slavery out of the people.

Our ancestors, led by Moses and Joshua, believed God sent them into the world in conquest, to show no mercy to their enemies, to defeat and kill them. But now, following Christ, we hear God giving us a higher mission. Now we believe God sends us into the world in compassion, to show mercy, to heal, to feed— to nurture and protect life rather than take it.

We need to be wise interpreters of our past. Like Elijah’s apprentice, Elisha, we must stay focused on the substance at the center, undistracted by all the surrounding fireworks. Because the meaning we shape from the stories we interpret will, in turn, shape us.