I spent the weekend in Houston, Texas speaking at a conference hosted by a Southern Baptist Church and attending a downtown United Methodist Church for Sunday worship. Would I have imagined this from a Lutheran pastor 10-15 years ago? Hardly. Yet, in both cases, I was inspired by what God is doing, across the church, bringing people together beyond the confines of their tradition and theology for the sake of their community.
St. John’s United Methodist Church in downtown Houston began as a mission outpost from a large suburban congregation. The vision of what was possible and necessary shifted dramatically after the first weeks of their ministry. Walking to worship, the pastors tripped over more homeless people entering their doors than they preached to within their doors. It wasn’t long until they knew God had not called them to establish a congregation for good hearted suburbanites willing to venture downtown once a week. God called them to bring good news to the poor, following the example and call of Jesus. Twenty years later their congregation is comprised of 1/3 homeless men and women, 1/3 people who were formerly homeless, and 1/3 people who have a heart for that community.
The centerpiece of the pastor’s sermon that morning revolved around this phrase, “Love is what love does!” Love does not merely consist of glowing words about Jesus’ affection for us, our desire to serve, and/or a feeling we might have at the moment. “Love is what love does!” In their context, love provides shelter, food, restoration, and hope for 300 homeless people a day in downtown Houston.
It’s Monday. What will love do through you today? Peace. Kai
Follow me. It seems simple enough on the surface, but what does it really mean? I know how the various manifestations of the church have interpreted that phrase over the years. Follow the teachings of the pope. Follow the doctrines of the church. Follow the cultural practices of German Lutherans or Irish Catholics or American Pentecostals. Follow the prescribed morality of the church leader. The end for most of these pathways was a clear distinction between who was in and who was out.
Is that what it means to follow Jesus? I heard a student once say this about their father, “My dad doesn’t tell me how to live. He just lives and let’s me watch.” If we watched Jesus, what would we see? In my eyes, we would see a man clear in his convictions (I have come to bring good news to the poor) and compassionate in his conversation (your faith has made you well). He spoke gently to the brokenhearted (lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors) and pointedly to the hardhearted (religious leaders). He led by serving (love one another) and served those who would be leading (peace I leave with you). If that is what I see, that is how I will strive to live.
It’s Monday. What do you see in the life of Jesus? Where will that lead you today? Peace. Kai
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I share his words from Strength to Love.
“He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. It is impossible even to begin the act of loving one’s enemies without the prior acceptance of the necessity, over and over again, of forgiving those who inflict evil and injury upon us. Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship.”
It’s Monday. What barriers to relationship do you need to dismantle today? Peace. Kai
Welcome to 2012.
Two questions: What story will you live this year? What story will you tell?
We all live a story-line whether we are conscious of it or not. We may be seeking to fulfill the expectations of our parents, spoken or unspoken. We may be living a story defined by our past—past circumstances that drive our actions in the present and hopes for the future. Over the next 10 months we will be inundated with each candidate for president’s vision for reclaiming the unique and heroic American narrative. They will be enticing voters to live in to their story-line, to join them in their version of the American narrative. So, in 2012, what story will you live? What story will you tell?
My hope in asking these questions is that you will be conscious of the choices you make, the story-line you live. Even more so, I hope they will prompt further inquiry into what it might mean for you to live a narrative as a fully-alive follower of Jesus. This narrative derives energy and direction from Jesus’ embodied wisdom and the sacrificial nature of his life. This story leads from self-sacrifice not self-interest, love not fear, resolute hope not debilitating despair. It is a story birthed with the words Jesus heard at his baptism, “You are my child, chosen and marked by love, pride of my life.”—no matter what!
It’s Monday. The choice is yours for 2012: What story will you live? What story will you tell? Peace. Kai