2 Corinthians 4:13-18So… we do not lose heart.
13 We share the same spirit of faith as the one who wrote the psalm, “I believed; therefore I spoke.” We also believe, and that belief leads us to acknowledge 14 that the same God who resurrected the Lord Jesus will raise us with Jesus and will usher us all together into His presence. 15All of this is happening for your good. As grace is spread to the multitudes, there is a growing sound of thanks being uttered by those relishing in the glory of God. 16So we have no reason to despair (we do not lose heart). Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day. 17You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. 18So we do not set our sights on things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on.
Here we are… half a year, 6 months into this new r street experiment. In so many ways we have already exceeded our hopes and dreams for this community. We have become more than we believed. And yet… there is maybe some disappointment; some regret for the faces we hoped we’d see along the way; over those we had hoped would walk with us out of the old reality and into the new. Maybe we even see faces we thought might join us; new faces – new voices to join us in this new journey. Wherever we find ourselves, almost half way through 2012; perspective is always helpful and we cannot hope to evaluate where we are without remembering where we started.
“I believed; therefore I spoke.” (v. 13)
This is where I started in September of 2011:
“i am ready to get out from under the mortgage but probably will not wait until then to say "this is who i am and this is where i am going" if 5 folks or 50 follow... it's all the same to me. i will probably say it this sunday. i have also already started conversations with folks who are not yet here that god told me, last night, were supposed to be invited into the work. i'll be happy to tell you who they are once i have spoken to them all. don't say they are all supposed to come along... just that i am supposed to invite them.
this is my one and only shot at this so i have no intention of soft-selling my vision. jerusalem asked me, awhile back, what vision i had for r street, i told her that if i had to "bullet point - on the spot - this is what it would look like:
this is the path i intend to follow…
- community - loving and caring for each other within the r street family
- mission - actively engaging in the work of the kingdom through existing ministries (the van, MBH, bed project)
- inclusion - openly communicating and pro-actively moving toward a fully inclusive and diverse community.
- worship - passionate and transparent worship that communicates the values and mission of r street
Whether we are 10 or 100 or 1000... i want a radical group of "happy heretics" who believe that 12 mostly uneducated and "on the margins" people changed the freakin world and that we are charged with the very same mission. I am ready to say that and to say that I do not have time or energy to lead anything less.”
“I believed; therefore I spoke.” (v. 13)
And I still believe. In the deepest parts of my soul I continue to believe that this is who he has called us to become, that this is what we are supposed to be. I believed; therefore I spoke – and for better or worse I continue to speak.
When we look around this room, we all miss someone who was once a part of this family. We could all lift the names of faces, of families, of children we wish were in the room this morning. Some have gone because the strongest family connections were to other shepherds or even other families who are no longer here. Some simply found the layover between the sale of the old building and our first meetings here at Eikon to be a good opportunity to change planes. And, honestly, some have even stated that the missional nature of our new journey required more that they were able to give at this moment. We bless them all. We love them all. Families change. People marry and join other families. People move on. They are, perhaps, no longer here but they remain connected; they remain family.
But you are here. And I am here. We are here and we are called to a journey that is well begun but far from complete. And others are called, although they may not yet know it.
When we made the decision to sell our building, Linda told us frankly that God was not leading us out… he was “kicking us out!” I thought about that again a few weeks ago when we remembered Jesus ascension and the great commission and then again, on Pentecost Sunday. It seems that Jesus did not so much lead the apostles out of the upper room (and eventually out of Jerusalem) so much as he “kicked them out”. And so, like them, we left. And we have tried to live in the reality of these 4 values; Community, Mission, Inclusion, Worship.
We have continued to learn to love one another. We have looked into open windows and opened our own windows to the rest of our tribe. We have prayed for and with one another. We have tried to carry one another’s burdens. We have shared meals, laughter and tears. We are not yet the family we may become, but we are becoming.
And we have embraced the mission of the other, of and to those outside our community. We have planted gardens and sorted clothes. We have built porches and shelves and we have raked leaves. We have gone into the margins and loved as we have been loved. We have served the least of these and discovered that we, too, are the least; and that the least, or the last, will someday be first.
We have begun to wrestle with what it means to be inclusive; to open our arms and our hearts to all and to trust God with the outcome. We have seen the value of those who may have believed that had none and we are challenged to find that value in surprising places.
And we have worshipped… we have sung to our creator and we have joined our voices with his creation… in this room or on familiar pews in an unfamiliar sanctuary. We have shared the bread and the cup of Eucharist. We have prayed and praised and laid forth our lament before our God. We have expressed who we are and who we are becoming through our songs and through our prayers.
15All of this is happening for your good. As grace is spread to the multitudes, there is a growing sound of thanks being uttered by those relishing in the glory of God. 16So we have no reason to despair.So… we do not lose heart.
Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day. 17You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. 18So we do not set our sights on things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on.Sometimes we focus on what can be seen; on missing faces, on empty chairs, on relationships broken, and we are tempted to lose heart… at least that is my struggle. But; it is those things that are not seen that give us hope. The small inner voice that tells a young girl named Sasha “I matter…” The unknown hungry that will be fed with tomatoes and okra from a garden fighting to break free of the weeds; The community and safety of a meal, a cold drink, or even a cigarette shared under a porch built to block the rain and the sun’s oppression; the young mom looking for a community to help her love her children; The young couple who find strength in a faith community committed to a family and not merely to two individuals. These invisible moments define us; and they grow, sometimes just out of sight, into the reality of the words we first believed and the words we continue to speak to anyone who will listen.
Our journey is sometimes difficult; usually unconventional; often counter-intuitive, and never flashy or sexy. Our journey has not made us famous (or even infamous) and it has not gained us the respect, or even the notice of the wider Christian community. But we do not focus on what is seen, on our external selves who seem, at times, to be “falling apart and decaying”. We look, instead, at our inward humanity and the promise of a journey well begun but far from over. We have many, many miles to go but we still believe the words spoken to us: community, mission, inclusion, worship. And so… we do not lose heart.
His kingdom come.