The Story

One of the most sure-fire ways to get under my skin is to cop a grandiose (and often far-reaching) “Well, the Bible clearly says…” in the middle of a conversation about the intersection of faith and policy and our shared life together as humans flying through space on a living rock. There’s not much about that scenario that is abundantly clear. We exist in tensions and grey areas, always learning from one another and from our mistakes.

And yet…

And yet…

And yet…

There are some things, written time and time again, forming a consistent arc throughout Scripture. These things we seem all too ready to overlook or cast aside.

That God is with us.
That God is for us.
That God, for some reason, chose and continues to choose to work with and through us.
That God moves to draw more and more people to Godself.
That the revelation of God’s grace gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger.

From a chosen family, to a chosen nation, to a priesthood of believers.
From a tent, to a temple, to an ascension leaving us staring into the clouds with wonder.

The table gets bigger time and time and time again until John has a vision of a giant feast with people from every tribe, and every nation, and every tongue gathered at around the table.

Within this arc there is no space for building walls and closing doors, that’s the wrong direction.

The table never gets smaller, only bigger.
Groups of people are not kicked out, only welcomed in.

First the Jew, then the gentile.
First a call to love your neighbor, then a call to love your enemy.

So for those of us who claim this tradition, that’s the arc of our story, too. It’s not just that we read about this expansion of the God’s grace and love in a morning quiet time, it’s the pattern our lives should reflect.

First your people, who sing the songs you like…and then the people who sing the songs you cannot even begin to sing along with.

First your people, who preach the messages that feed you…and then the people who preach the messages that make you angry.

First your people with whom you know which jokes will be funny and which values may be assumed…and then to the people who could not be more unlike you.

The table always gets bigger.
That’s how the story goes, the story we signed up not just to believe but to be a part of when we decided to follow Christ.

We decided that it was more advantageous to build bigger buildings than bigger tables though. The fastest way to build a bigger building is to gather a whole bunch of similar people. We blessed this idea and called it “church growth.” I’m not sure which hermeneutic we used to get there, because when I look at the growth of the Church in Scripture it hardly seems like a bunch of similar people who gathered. The Church seemed to grow when there were a lot of people with differences who gathered in defiance of the social constructs which pushed them away from one another. The Church seemed to grow when this rag-tag group of Jews and Greeks, free people and slaves, rich and poor gathered and shared and dared want and hunger to exist in their midst.

The Bible clearly says that.

Which is inconvenient, so we ignore it.

It is inconvenient for the table to get bigger. This is not a happy-clappy, Instagrammable feast with flower crowns and microbrews.

It’s hard to come to the table with someone who sees the world differently than you do.
It’s hard to break bread and pour wine with someone who may abandon you after dinner.
It’s hard to wash the feet of one who would betray you.
But this is the way we have chosen.

It is fine if you are compelled to work for walls and new policies to keep people out in order to “keep your family safe,” just realize that is a different story you will be living in when you make that choice.

It is fine if you chose to hold on to your anger because a person or a group has hurt you, just realize you are choosing a different story when anger become the center and the animating force.

The table always, only gets bigger in this story, and it is most inconvenient to continue to choose to live in it.

 

 

(Image: mrhayata)

Weekend Reading

Child (frustrated with my insistence that they not kick the walls): Do you OWN this church or something???
Me: this week, I do.
Child (bewildered): Who owns it next week?

IMG_0028

I spent the week shuffling 75-some-odd children and 30-some-odd adults around our church building during Vacation Bible Club.  It was awesome. It was exciting. It was exhausting.

IMG_0026
I’ll be picking the bits of whipped cream out of my hair for the next six months at least.

 

Throughout it all I was reminded that you really can kill them with kindness:

J (a 4th grader, upon seeing me walk around the corner):
OH NO! It’s Megan again!

Me: Nice to see you J, I’m so glad you’re here tonight.

J: (gives me a look) Naw…I don’t think you underSTOOD me right, I said “Oh no! It’s Megan!” Like, that Megan who rides your back when you tryin to do stuff.

Me: And I said, nice to see you, I’m glad you’re here.

J: (shakes head and walks away)

And that promises of being able to smash pies in pastor’s faces are better behavior motivators than the threat of being sent home.

995397_10151711366478815_1113221032_n

In the midst of it all…these small bits of beauty and depth and conviction.

I hope you enjoy as much as I did!

grace and peace,
Megan

The Great Wall of Texas: How The U.S. is Repeating One of History’s Greatest Blunders
“The real dilemma for American growth is not ignorance about good economics, but the quagmire of bad politics. Simple-minded protectionism in terms of trade or migration is being exploited by populists in both major parties. What our leaders need to understand is that the only existential threat facing America is not embodied by barbarians at the gates, but by American isolationism.”

Beyond George Zimmerman: We Need to Be Talking About Black-on-Black Crime
“As I’ve said many times during this case, Americans, especially black Americans, have come to accept blacks killing other blacks as normal.”

Momastory: Tara 
“I sat up straight with my hands clasped in my lap, nervous sweat dripping down my back, as the three men explained things to me behind the closed office door. ‘If we choose to offer you admittance, and should you in turn choose to come to our Christian college, you won’t be allowed to date any of the boys on campus.’  I looked around and wished I had not come alone. I said nothing and stared down at my silver cross ring, sitting on my wedding ring finger. ‘We will have a big problem on our hands if one of these Christian boys goes home to tell his parents that he is dating a divorced, single mother. That is not going to be okay.’ Their words burned.”

(and through the Momastory, I found Tara and the wealth of explosive, uncomfortable, beautiful things she writes about here, but this one was my favorite)

Working for Justice in Adoption
“As followers of Jesus, if we are to pronounce just judgment, we’re going to have to be willing to examine some uncomfortable things and be less fearful of things we don’t understand. As followers of Jesus if we are to be guardians of the poor and afflicted, we’re going to have to ask harder questions and do more research.  As followers of Jesus we should all want to complete adoptions where at the end we can say that the rights of the poor were maintained.”

Everyone’s a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony
After all, when God became flesh and lived among us, the religious accused him of hanging out with ‘sinners’ (even gluttons!) never realizing that this was the whole point, that there were only ‘sinners’ to hang out with.”

Child Miners Face Death for Tech
“Minerals extracted by children in the DRC include coltan, cobalt, and copper, among others. Coltan, a mineral of which the DRC has 64% of the world’s reserves, is a fundamental material in the fabrication of modern electronics because of its ability to hold high electric charges. And cobalt is used to produce rechargeable batteries for hybrid electric vehicles, laptops and cell phones.

Many children that I interviewed did not know the final purpose and destination of the minerals they extract.”

What Would Happen if the Church Tithed?
“…what would happen if believers were to increase their giving to a minimum of, let’s say, 10 percent. There would be an additional $165 billion for churches to use and distribute. The global impact would be phenomenal.”

Carolyn’s Reflections: Standing Up to Spiritual Abusers
“I fear that much of what women are absorbing in women’s ministries and Bible studies contributes to these vulnerabilities and is insufficient to fuel the kind of courage and strength we need at the first flicker of abuse.”

Also of note, my daughter’s hair is now long enough for the cutest little stub-tails you’ll ever see.
IMG_8338

Happy weekending!

Weekend Reading

Jesus, Stripping and Gospel Music
Jesus, look, you know me.  If you’ll have me, as is, I promise I’ll give you my whole life.  If you can forgive me, take away this hella guilt and shame, I will follow you to the ends of this f—-d up earth.  Amen.”

Our Long, Uneasy Tension Between God and Country
“As Christians, we are at war with ourselves to love and follow Jesus fully, yet we have sometimes communicated that our nation—a nation full of people with diverse faiths and no faith at all—consistently represents God’s will on earth. This is a dangerous patriotism. It lacks common sense, and it is bad theology…Our nation has a unique history of acknowledging God, not of obeying Him.”

What our Daughters (and sons) Need to Know About Modesty
“Biblical modesty is about valuing a person as much more than a body, but the above mentioned legalism combined with the shame and manipulation used to get women to cover up is really just telling us that our hearts don’t matter, our bodies do. That ultimately our relationship with Jesus comes down to how much cleavage we are showing.”

Ya’at’eeh
“Our nations and peoples have been pushed aside to scraps of land that are largely unwanted and out of the way. The majority of people who visit us are those coming to give us charity or those coming to take pictures at the ‘Native American zoo’. Very few actually come for friendship.”

When Your Mother Says She’s Fat
“Now I understand what it’s like to grow up in a society that tells women that their beauty matters most, and at the same time defines a standard of beauty that is perpetually out of our reach. I also know the pain of internalizing these messages. We have become our own jailors and we inflict our own punishments for failing to measure up. No one is more cruel to us than we are to ourselves.But this madness has to stop, Mom. It stops with you, it stops with me, and it stops now. We deserve better—better than to have our days brought to ruin by bad body thoughts, wishing we were otherwise.”

O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
once a word or name becomes familiar, it doesn’t matter where it came from.And that’s true of all of us, Words, Names, Places, And our neighbor And the one who isn’t And the one who looks out from the mirror Wondering.”

Gitmo is Killing Me
“I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.

I could have been home years ago — no one seriously thinks I am a threat — but still I am here.”

Momaquery – On Criticism vs. Cruelty
“If a woman decides to reveal a part of herself- that is not an excuse for other people to hurt her. And if you do decide to hurt her where she’s vulnerable- if you see a part of her that’s showing and pounce on that part- if you sink your teeth into her exposed flesh – that shows who YOU are, not who she is.

Revealing the truth about who God made me does not release you from your responsibility to be a decent human being.”

I also…

did this thing a few weeks ago where I preached about Biblical equality at my church on a Sunday morning.   If you have 45 minutes to kill and want to learn about equality from Creation to Nicea and into today, you should check it out.  Boys vs. Girls.

Within the very being of God we are given a picture of complete alliance, three persons working within one and the same will to accomplish God’s own purposes – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  This is the image which we were designed to bear.  This is the glimpse of God we were intended to put forth to the world God so desperately loves and desires to redeem.  But we cannot portray this image on our own. No single gender can advance or clarify the image of God to this broken and hurting world without the partnership of the other.

Meditation Monday: Stranger

hug globe(credit)

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”

(Jesus in Matthew 25)

Day by day I’ve been forcing myself to look,

and then look again,

and then look deeper.

To walk away, disrobe myself of the mottled mix of European cultures  turned middle class American mindset,

and look yet again.

With a thinner lens and a broader understanding, I hope.

I’ve been walking through the “I Was a Stranger Challenge” put out by the Evangelical Immigration Table.

Why?

Because a few months ago I was around a table with a Latina sister who apologized for Hispanics and Latinos in the church making the white congregants uncomfortable and sometimes angry.

She apologized for our discrimination and (in more instances than we’d like to admit) hate.

I want you to pause on that one for a second.

Her son translated the grace she was bestowing.   Grace I had neither asked for nor even realized I needed.

Jesus has rarely seemed more real to me than in that moment.

I wanted to cry.

Political ideologies aside, the Body of Christ should never make part of itself feel unwanted or hated or “illegal”. 

This is a witness against the God we serve.

This is sin.

So I’ve read:

“In the image of God we are created…”

Woman.

Man.

Hispanic.

White.

African American.

Native.

All.

I’ve read

“you shall not wrong a sojourner…” in Exodus 22

and then again,  just twenty verses later in Exodus 23:9 “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner.”

I’ve read

“When a foreigner lives with you in your land, you must not oppress him. You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God.”
and my soul trembled.

For it could easily be said of us that we as Americans know the hearts of sojourners. 

My family immigrated too…at some point in times long past.

I’m willing to bet your family did too.

And so the conversation must change.

Dignity must be preserved.

And within the Body, love must prevail.

Our allegiance as followers of Jesus, residents of the Kingdom is to love God and love each other first.

Love must hem us in before and behind.

Love must be in our speech and in the spaces in between.

Love must be in our eyes, our thoughts, our actions.

Because when we enter this community, we are not white or Latino or African American.  We are not democrat or republican.  We are Jesus’ Body.  God’s presence, God’s image, here on earth.

Period.

And so the conversation must change.

*********************************************************************

I would highly encourage you to check out the Evangelical Immigration Table, the work they are doing to change and engage the conversation and – most of all perhaps – I would encourage you to join me on these 40 days of exploring God’s heart for the foreigner, sojourner, alien and traveler within our midst.

 

ALSO, don’t forget to comment/tweet/share/like to be entered to win Carolyn Curtis James’ Half the Church!
Enter to Win Here!