Posts Tagged ‘Community’

I Have A Dream

January 16, 2017

Is there an American who does not know what follows that phrase, “I have a dream”?

I hope not.

I remember taking a lot of grief from pretty much everyone in my home town back in the day for agreeing with that dream.

But I still have the dream–that every person will be judged by the strength of their character and not the color of their skin–or any of the other ways we have of dividing people into groups “like us” and “not like us”.

Jesus did not have difficulties crossing the very strict racial boundaries of his day (Jew v non-Jew).

I’m leading a small group studying from Romans right now. Paul is devoting much time to bridging the divide between the significant racial divide of his day–Jew v non-Jew.

It was painful to me in the last presidential election to watch one marketing message very clearly playing on the racial fears or prejudices of a group of Americans while the other candidate failed to come out strongly as one who would bridge the gap.

The same attitudes are springing up world-wide. Look at the unrest in Europe right now.

Where is the next Martin Luther King, Jr. who can raise a powerful voice in a non-violent way to unify people instead of dividing them?

Shed a Little Light

January 18, 2016

I wrote today’s post over the weekend. I’m having trouble remembering what day it is anymore. Too many things on my mind, I guess.

This morning, reminded it was Martin Luther King Day, I was reminiscing about my youthful college days as a civil rights advocate in an all-white community (of 1,000 people) and the grief I took. Or driving through Mississippi on my way to LSU for grad school in 1970 with an equal rights decal on my car. Book smart, common sense stupid. That was me.

Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at my little liberal arts university not long before he was murdered. Guys told me that the farmers from around Ada, Ohio joked about how they should have run his car off the road on the trip from Lima to Ada.

Thanks to John Fischer and his email newsletter The Catch for pointing out this great song on YouTube to remind us of having a dream. Do we still have the dream? Listen and enjoy.

I Am A Disciple-Or At Least Try To Be

July 15, 2015

Reading my Facebook stream trying to understand “Christian” would leave you puzzled. In fact, I bet that you could read your own Facebook stream of news and be puzzled.

Some whom you know to call themselves Christian seem like the most loving, gracious people. Some, on the other hand, seem to be disputatious, quarrelsome, judgmental, cynical, in other words, someone whom you would not really care to hang out with. Or—even to be labeled the same.

That has been a problem for many years.

For example, did you know that there was a preacher/politician named John Calhoun in the early 19th Century in America who wrote books “proving” that black people (the slaves at the time) were not really human beings. And he used the Bible to prove it.

Andy Stanley addresses this problem in his latest Your Move series. He points out that Jesus and his followers used a much more specific term—disciple. We know what a disciple is. The definition of Christian is open to debate. But a disciple is a follower of a teacher who tries to emulate everything about the teacher.

That is one reason I like to develop spiritual practices in my life and try to lead others to develop these practices. The correct spiritual practices help us try to become a true disciple of Jesus.

You know, Jesus, the one who told his disciples (John 13:34), “I give you a new commandment, to love one another.”

There are people who may self-identify as a “Christian” but who certainly do not appear to be living out Jesus’ last commandment.

So, I have preferred the term “follower” or the term “disciple” for most of the past 45 years. Like many, I shy away from describing myself as Christian.

Maybe if more of us followed this advice from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we wouldn’t be so ashamed of the term:

Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.

Finding a Rhythm For Spiritual Practice

March 16, 2015

Every community has a rhythm. A rhythm to rising from sleep, praying, eating, working, studying, eating, relaxing, and sleep.

As an outsider, you notice the rhythm. If you are of a sympathetic nature, you find yourself adapting your natural rhythms to those of the community. If you are more self-centered, you try to impose your rhythm or at least complain about the community’s.

Last week, I was with a small team working and growing at the Tijuana Christian Mission. The orphanage at Soler in Tijuana has its rhythm to which I just sort slipped into.

This is the home of the older children–junior and senior high–served by the mission. They rise before 5 am. Martha, the founder of the orphanage who is in her 70s, is up with them. She leads a Bible study at 5:40 for about a half hour. They eat and are in vans on the way to various schools by 7.

I slipped gently into their routine, since my normal rhythm is to rise around 5:30, study, mediatate and pray. Then have a small breakfast. 

My adjustments were small. Breakfast was prepared for me by Karla and Alma. It was much larger than I’m accustomed to. It was not extravagent. Healthy and prepared by loving hands. And there was no place for a motning run. But work replaced that.

I recently heard Nancy Ortberg talk about the rhythm of spiritual practice. As someone trained as a percussionist, I immediately adopted that metaphor. 

Have you found a rhythm to your practice? Is it a hard-driving on-beat like The Beatles? Moving like a Mozart sonata? Or discordant like a work by John Cage?

In this case, I prefer Mozart.

One God One People

November 24, 2014

“There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

I almost always have something on my person with which to take notes. I currently carry a Moleskin notebook that fits nicely in the back pocket of my jeans. Sometimes it is a 3×5 index card wallet (I write my to-do list on those for the day). If nothing else, I can use the Notes app on my iPhone.

Late last week, I had a great idea for a blog post. I didn’t write it down. It’s gone. All I have is the memory of having an idea.

The weakest ink is better than the strongest memory” — Chinese proverb


The best I remember of what I was thinking came from my reading of N.T. Wright’s study of Paul, “Paul and the Faithfulness of God.”

He pointed out in a discussion (of several hundred pages) of Paul’s “rewriting” of his Scriptures leading to developing a new Shema (quoted above from 1 Corinthians 8:6). In the Greek, God is YHWH (we pronounce Yahweh or the Latin Jehovah, Jews would not pronounce) and Lord is the Greek kyrios–a word in the original Greek translation of the Scriptures that also refers to God. An interesting thing to ponder.

While reading Wright’s key passage, 1 Cor 8-10, my eye fell on a verse in chapter 11 about women. The verse, taken by itself (which you should almost never do), contained a seeming put-down of women. But this morning I returned to the passage and read the entire argument of 1 Cor 11-12.

That passage talks about the mutual submission of men and women. Something to meditate on when considering our relationships. But that’s another topic. It continues to discuss divisions in the church (ekklesia) in Corinth.

Read 8-12 as one long argument, and you get Paul’s main point. We have one God (the Creator in the Old Testament and the Father in the New), and one Lord (Jesus in the New Testament, the person who was God revealed to the people), and one ekklesia (gathering of people).

When we gather as a people of God, contention is not a Spiritual gift. It is not to be allowed. Social differences are to be put aside. Political differences are to be put aside. Personality issues are to be put aside. We worship the one God through the One who revealed God to the people as one people.

Imagine the letters Paul would write today to all of our churches about this core teaching of his. He’d need an army of admins to compile the email database to send us all the reprimands that we need and the instruction we need.

One God, One Lord, One People. Remembering that daily is perhaps the fundamental Spiritual Discipline we need today.

Paul Wants Unity Among Christians First

October 20, 2014

“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5

For some reason I’ll not understand, I woke up this morning thinking about this play on words–we Americans, we might live in the “United States”, but we’re not very united on much of anything.

In my study of Paul, I’ve been reading about how much Paul wanted his small groups he called ekklesia to be united in spirit. He wrote so much about that. About the hands and feet not battling each other, or the eyes and ears not trying to dominate each other in the body of Jesus.

Now he was writing to groups of maybe 10-15. They weren’t going to gather 500 in a house. Besides, if they did, the Romans would have pounced immediately.

But even these groups were in danger of splitting. A new person would come to town. Charismatic, with new ideas. Called Paul “out of it.”

People would gather for a holy meal in a somewhat small room (at least by contemporary American standards), yet would have all manner of problems–the wealthy wanting to go first, separating into smaller sub-groups according to wealth or status of one sort or another.

I remember talking with a woman about church many years ago. “Oh, I could never go to your church. The people are too wealth. They’d never accept me.”

But even more–instead of gathering to worship and praise God and care for one another, we criticize and gossip and break into groups. Leaders stop leading caring for other things. Or just their own status.

We think it’s freedom to go our own way. Do our own thing as we said in the late 60s never thinking about how that would go on to corrupt our society.

Freedom, Paul says, is the ability to serve others. Don’t use freedom for self-indulgence. Use it to bring others into the group. To care for those in the group. To worship God with prayer and song and teaching.

Forming Community

August 5, 2013

We were at a hotel in suburban Chicago. 17 students, 5 instructors/observers/evaluators, a few other observers. I devoted last weekend to improving my skills as a soccer referee instructor. It was intense. We gave three presentations before a small group. At each presentation were one or two top instructors who gave us advice but were also grading us. Our peers gave us feedback on our presentations. We tried to apply new techniques immediately.

There were three small groups. Friday night was learning. Up early Saturday, we started the round of presentations at 8. Had lunch time (maybe 2.5 hours) to prepare second presentation. Back at 2 pm for the second presentation cycle. Third presentation was Sunday morning. Really intense.

An interesting thing happens in that environment. Our small group of 6 almost immediately formed a little community. We were rooting for each other. Helping each other.

Reflecting on the experience this morning during my quiet meditation time, I wondered if the early Christian communities were something like this–although not passionate about a sport, they were passionate about a new way of life. They met in small groups. They taught each other. They “rooted” for each other. They helped each other–even financially for those who lost everything to follow this new Master called Jesus.

Then I started to think about the churches we attend today. How much is only attendance? How much is like a group where we all help each other out? Where, instead of gossiping about who’s doing what to whom, we reach out to each other?

I recently heard someone tell a personal story of struggle. Someone from the congregation approached and said, “You know, you can’t really participate anymore in this church because you are struggling.” What a terrible, heartless thing to say. Better would be, “I hear that you are hurting. What can I do to help you? And, by the way, you are always welcome here in our small group as we all struggle to live the way Jesus taught.”

What are you doing to promote community?