Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Soulful Village

A soulful village…that’s how our church coach Paul Nixon referred to our congregation in the midst of the focus groups we had over the past weekend. Megan, our Leadership Team chair and I, as pastor, were a part of all four focus groups—three in a row on Saturday. I admit that I was somewhat anxious as we approached the day. The topics for each group were clear. They grew out of the intensive and extensive work we have been doing over the last couple of years. I know that some have had questions about the direction we are taking. There have been missteps, and there have been differences of opinions, so I inwardly took a deep breath waiting to hear what folks are thinking.

It ended up being an amazing experience. At Paul’s direction, we had invited a mix of “investeds” and “generalists” to each focus group. We heard from the heads and hearts of people who are seeking “to be and to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” We admitted that ours is probably a somewhat introverted and heady group of members. Even some of us who are extraverts tend to the shy side. Thus we realize that we have some work to do there.

It was in the third group of the day, I think, that Paul first used the term “soulful village” as we talked about our children’s ministries. I felt a sudden warming of my heart. It was more than an “aha” moment; it was a pouring out of blessing. While I had felt encouraged and hopeful in the earlier groups, I felt God’s smile of love and affection for this diverse mix of persons, of which I am a part.

I invite you to take a moment to consider just what it means to be a “soulful village” here in the busy, hectic, skeptical environs of the twenty-first century DMV. What is it to be a village?   What is it to be soulful? After you think about it for a bit, take some time to rest with the image of a village that is soulful. What other images come to mind? What gifts do we bring to each other and to our community?

Romans 12:9-10

Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Making Welcome Space

Driving down a dark road, standing water coming onto the outside lanes, rain still coming down, approaching an underpass my mind jumped back many years to learning the danger of trying to traverse the old underpasses dotting the cities in Tidewater Virginia. Fortunately, the ones this night were newer. The road underneath did not take a necessary dip because the road above was not high enough to allow traffic underneath otherwise. There had been eight inches or more of rain thanks to the storm Julia who decided to hang out over top. I had to go another route to get to my destination or I would have encountered impassable water on the road.

Arriving at my hosts' home was a welcome joy as they extended hospitality to me, opening the door to the brightness of their home. I think of a friend who is currently walking the Camino in Spain and finding all sorts of hospitality along the way, and my friends on the island of Iona in Scotland finding welcome in the fields and rocky beaches.

I confess that my response to the welcome was to relax into the space so much that I talked almost nonstop. Obviously I needed the sense of accepting the liberty I felt in their presence.

Where do we find welcome along our way? Where do we offer space for others? Do we expect people to come and find it in the church, or are we willing to offer it to others where they are?

Matthew 10:12-14
"When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don't welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don't make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way."

Thursday, September 15, 2016

My Trust and Hope

While I care very much about the upcoming election, I realized that I was putting too much energy into wanting the “right” candidate to win over the “wrong” candidates. I was pulled up suddenly by a question that came into my spirit that I can only believe comes from the Spirit—where am I putting my trust and hope?

Regardless of who wins the popular vote in November and the electoral vote in December, and regardless who will occupy the White House beginning January 20, 2017, my hope and trust really is in the One who put all Creation into motion, who abides in the depths of all Creation, and who calls us forward in relationship. My fretting now will not change that.

Yes, of course, I personally think that a particular candidate is more likely than the others to lead our nation in a way that more closely aligns with how I think it should go, but no one person is right all the time. I have not agreed with everything done by any of the presidents who have been in office since I have been able to vote. I do know that our triune God is the center of all, seeks relationship with each of us, and inspires us to be in loving, healing relationship with others. I have decided that is where I will put my energy, my trust, and my hope.

Matthew 6:33

Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. [The Message]

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Holding the Space

I sat in a room of strangers. At least, they were all strangers to me. I had not even seen their names until an hour before we sat down together. I felt a small sense of anxiety arise within me at the thought that I needed to engage in dialogue with them.

There is a tendency to think that extraverts are naturally at ease with others, but that is not always true, especially for me. You see, I am a shy extravert. I have never been particularly at ease with meeting strangers, or with small talk. There is a picture of me of our wedding reception where I am deep in a seemingly serious conversation. That was more comfortable than making chit chat.

Back to the room of strangers. I acknowledged the anxiety silently as I reminded myself that it was up to me to set the tone. This was not about me. This was about creating a space where over the next four semesters this group would become support for each other as they grew in their self-understanding as persons in ministry.

Maybe you too have a sense of anxiety as you approach strangers. I invite you to admit the anxiety, but don't let it defeat you. Don't let it hold you silent. Wherever you are, you are the host of this space within and around you. This is not about you. It's about creating a place where relationship can take place even if only for a brief moment. Take the opportunity to invite the other into this space knowing as you do so that Jesus is present as well.

Hebrews 13:2

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Friday, September 2, 2016

We Need You

Before getting into my reflection, I want to urge you to volunteer for Falls Church Feeds the World. It's on Sunday, September 11. We need you. From all I hear as I talk with folks around town, and the number of calls we have had, we are going to have lots of people from the community come to take part, more than did in June. That means we truly need all hands on deck for the church side of things. We need to be ready to host all these neighbors in such a gracious way that they can see a grace and love that comes beyond us and through us, even if they have no idea what it is. That said, sign up here () to volunteer. If all the spaces seem to be filled, don't worry. That doesn't mean you aren't needed. We need you!

While this may seem unrelated to what I said above, I don't think it is. You see I've been thinking about baptism lately. A couple of weeks ago we baptized Makhi, Anika's baby. On Sunday, I will be in Ohio baptizing Daniel, Becky and Joe's second son. When we take part in baptism we are making a promise to be God's community of grace and mercy for this child, this youth, this adult. We are surrounding them with it at that moment, and also beyond that moment. Martin Luther said that baptism is a sacrament that takes our entire lives to complete.

As I think about this, I hold in my heart a place for those who find themselves not surrounded by that community of grace and mercy. Sometimes it is because we as the body of Jesus in this world have let them down. Sometimes it is because they have made a deliberate choice to remove themselves from that community. In some slight way, I understand the grief God experiences at our wandering ways. I know the grief I have as a mother for one son who wanders does not fully compare with all the tears God has wept because of all of us, but I also know that God weeps next to me and within me.

The words of John Ylvisaker's song say it for me.
"I was there to hear your borning cry,
I'll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.
I was there when you were but a child,
with a faith to suit you well;
In a blaze of light you wandered off
to find where demons dwell."

This is why we need you to volunteer for Falls Church Feeds the World. We need you to be community of grace and mercy for all God's children whether they have been baptized, or never will be. They are beloved, and need to experience a bit of that belovedness.

Psalm 17:8

Guard me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings

Friday, August 19, 2016

This Is Why

This week, I was with a family as their husband/father/grandfather's service in the Army was honored with interment at Arlington National Cemetery. While we waited in the Admin Building before the procession in our cars began, I had an opportunity to talk with the ten year old grandson. As he told me about the cookies he had made for the lunch to follow this ceremony, his is mom said how much they had all enjoyed their participation in our June Falls Church Feeds the World event. I said we have another one coming up on September 11. She asked her son if he would like to do it again. Quite seriously, and definitely, he said he does want to do it.

This is a big part of the "why" behind all the work we put into FCFTW. Not only are we helping to feed the world, we are also helping young people make a difference in the world around them. Maybe they won't be a part of KIDZone, and maybe their folks won't be a part of worship, but they get to be a part doing something to feed others who are hungry, and that makes Jesus dance with joy. And who knows, they might find some of that Jesus joy entering their life too.

So when Nina or someone asks you how you want to volunteer for FCFTW, sign up. It takes all, ALL, ALL, ALL, of us to do such an outrageously big do. Even better, sign up here.  You are needed!

Get the word out to everyone in your neighborhood: we are going to pack over 30,000 meals on September 11!

Matthew 25:37-40

‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’