Community, Risk, Peace - Reflections 7-3-19

Texts for Sunday July 7, 2019

Isaiah 66:10-14
Psalm 66:1-9
Galatians 6:1-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Having been away at a continuing ed event all last week and now faced with a shortened week, I’ve not had time to tie all my thoughts together. I will leave the tying or (k)not to you.

The event I attended last week focused on systemic injustice and oppression by society and Church, and how coming together as the “beloved community”, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr called it, is the most effective way to stand up to the powers and principalities of oppression and injustice. 
That is the context out of which my thoughts emerged.

In the Gospel text, Jesus sends 70 followers out in pairs to share the news with the countryside that “the Kingdom of God has come near to you.” 
Three words captured me as I read this text.

And words about these three words, came to my mind from others. Specifically, Jean Vanier and Anne Lamott.

What saved me was that I found gentle, loyal and hilarious companions, which is at the heart of meaning: maybe we don’t find a lot of answers to life’s tougher questions, but if we find a few true friends, that’s even better. They help you see who you truly are, which is not always the loveliest possible version of yourself, but then comes the greatest miracle of all—they still love you. They keep you company as perhaps you become less of a whiny baby, if you accept their help.      
- Anne Lamott, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair

One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn't as individuals.     
- Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, 1979. 1989.

I believe that we were created to live in community. The diverse gifts of each individual in a community compliment, challenge, enhance the life of community. 

In the Gospel, Jesus did not send his followers out alone. Each had a partner with whom to travel. I can imagine that in some of these pairs, one or both became less of a whiny baby in their partnership. I’m sure that they encouraged each other as their energy flagged or as doubt crept in. I love the thought that the pair were able to welcome people that one or the other couldn’t as an individual.

One of the more important take-aways from the event I attended is that we cannot move those in power unless movements that challenge power find a way to stand up together. MLK's beloved community held that vision: a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. The revived Poor People’s Campaign gathers diverse groups together to protest and to advocate for fair and ethical policies in economics, education, healthcare, environmental justice, criminal justice reform, [and] equal protection under the law. 
This is called fusion politics.

If we stay where we are, where we’re stuck, where we’re comfortable and safe, we die there. But new is scary, and new can be disappointing, and confusing—we had this all figured out, and now we don’t.
- Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

Sending these pairs out was risky. Agreeing to be sent out was even riskier. Jesus talked about them as lambs in the midst of wolves. He sent them out without any supplies. Enter the unknown and see what happens. Welcome hospitality. Receive what you are given.  Protest a cold shoulder by shaking the dust off your shoes as you leave.
Announce a new kingdom has come.

Challenging the power system is always risky. Aligning oneself with the vulnerable makes one vulnerable. Standing up against injustice and oppression is long and tedious. MLK quoted the 19th century clergy person, Theodore Parker, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”. 

But....if we aim toward comfortable and safe, we die there.

Peace cannot be imposed by politicians or churches. Peace has to grow within each person if it is to endure. 
- Jean Vanier, Encountering the “Other”

Before the announcement of the coming Kingdom, these followers are to proclaim peace to the house they enter. This scene drew to mind one from the Gospel of John. Jesus, after his resurrection, followed his own directions when he entered the house where the disciples were huddled together with the words “peace be with you”.

I am drawn to this command in verses 5 & 6. Offer peace. If received it will bless the person, if not, you have lost nothing. You still have peace. Peace grows within Jesus’ followers. They do not need to get defensive or hostile or violent; they do not get on social media to shout down those who do not receive them. Peace continues to rest within them.

I think balancing shock, anger, grief, and despair is the hardest thing for me in facing the powers who are bent on waging war against the stranger and the vulnerable. They don't care what others think; they will do what they want to do. Community helps to find a balance. But these verses also invite me to find the peace that God has given me. I can share peace and regardless of the reception it receives, I still have it.

I know this is a mish-mash of things; that is the sorting process going on in me. 

May it all roll gently around your head and heart.

One more thought for you from the daily messages I get from the Church of the Savior in Washington DC. It is actually the one I received today.

… locating ourselves with those who have been endlessly excluded becomes an act of visible protest. For no amount of our screaming at the people in charge can change them. The margins don’t get erased by simply insisting that the powers that be erase them. The trickle-down theory doesn’t really work here. The powers bent on waging war against the poor and young and “other” will only be moved to kinship when they see it. Only when we can see a community where all that is excluded is valued and appreciated, will we abandon the values that seek to exclude.”                        –Greg Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Industries

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245