Already much has been written and spoken about the tragic events in Orlando last weekend. There is much to grieve, much cause for anger, and no small amount of grace-filled outpouring of care and support for victims, families and first responders who had to secure the scene and provide first aid.
This is personal to me as there are members of my own family who feel as if they must continue to live as walking targets for acts of discrimination and violence. They know some of the victims.
There is no comfort in “Well, it wouldn’t happen here.” Scripture bids me as a disciple of Jesus to expand my definition of “Here.” “. . . in Jerusalem, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
I confess to times where I have tried to shrink my definition of “here” to something more manageable, less taxing, “good enough.” What often happens is that over time my spirit starts to suffocate in that too small space. Fortunately for me I am part of a faith community that knows and cares about me – enough to call me out of my self-imposed confinement with words from Christ, spoken with forgiveness and encouragement. The Church reminds me that isolation and self-centeredness are not protectors but destroyers of the only kind of security and safety I truly seek.
Have you seen this dynamic in the Church? Have there been times when we have tried to shrink our sense of what it means to be the people whom Christ has called to the confines of a congregational campus on a weekend (or if we are part of the 10% who do 90% of the volunteer work – several days and nights a week)?
The primary reason that some of us and some of our congregations fail to enjoy the fullness of salvation in Christ is not the popular culture, it is not the fault of young adults who don’t attend church and it is not some mythical conspiracy.
Some of us have just ceased wanting to be inspiring. We do not effectively challenge evil. We are getting good at making excuses for all that is wrong and, worse, accommodate it as the new normal. We place our trust in “superhuman” leaders and institutions and polarizing groups who over promise and under-deliver time after time. I can even learn to relish the role of sanctified “victim” and my “membership” in a co-dependent form of Christianity.
From faith communities and individuals who are thriving spiritually we see viral videos and Facebook posts about deep, loving and high impact engagement with the community, meeting needs and sharing stories of life-changing faith with those who have too little in the moment. We hear of those strong, humble and wise saints whose very presence in the sanctuary, home or marketplace is a tangible blessing – walking gospels, old and young. What if we would be less concerned about being a better role model for our “brand” of church member and open up to become more Christ-like; not overnight, but certainly in time as we allow the Spirit of God to lead and guide our living every day of the week?
How many in Orlando took the opportunity to do just that? Taking to the street as Jesus did in his time. They lined up in the heat to donate blood and plasma for the victims still being treated. Congregations offered free funeral services for victims. Small church groups deployed to share support for grieving families and for first responders who scrambled to save those still alive. We shared with you on the Christian Church of Greater Kansas City Facebook page the letter that Regional Minister Juan Rodriguez sent to Florida Disciples listing the ways they were responding. Take a look, too, at the video response from our General Minister and President Sharon Watkins at: http://disciples.org/ and the letter now circulating from other leaders in the Church.
As my wife Donna and I were talking about the responses to recent violence, she held up a paper name tag that she has begun wearing starting yesterday. It reads “We Are Connected” I could not help but to think what it might mean if we Greater Kansas City Disciples would adopt that as one of our distinctive missions – to proclaim softly but plainly something for which Jesus himself passionately prayed. Not a noisy protest but a silent statement of fact, a humble hope, and a fervent prayer. WE ARE CONNECTED.
Grateful to be connected with you in our shared “Movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ we welcome all to the Table of the Lord as God has welcomed us.” (Disciples of Christ Identity Statement)