Here I Am (RenewedMinds): Now What on Earth Should I Be Doing?
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As we move away from storing the potential energy in our vehicles in gas tanks and move it into batteries, there is a mechanical poetry that starts to disappear. Bruce Springsteen is never gonna write a song about a kilowatt motor under the hood, or the limited freedom that miles to a charge provides. Much of the poetry of internal combustion rests in the pure simplicity of what it does.
At its core an IC engine takes an explosion and directs it. Small explosions thousands of times a minute.
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Sips of refined hydrocarbon, puffs of air, flashes of spark pushed into an airtight chamber and changed into a rotational force that will take you as far as you want to go—as long as you keep that trinity of fuel, air, and spark running through pistons. More and more I find my life in ministry to be wrapped up in essentially the same task.
Take small explosions, and channel them into forward motion. Into movement. No, I tell you, but rather division! Many of us in pastoral work are conflict averse by training and inclination. We fall into a binary categorization of peace and conflict, to the point where many of us will dive to prevent any form of conflict, even if it has the potential to be generative, even if it has the potential to call us further into mission, and into line with where Christ is calling us in the world.
There is an invitation here, difficult as it might be to see it. To live into the call of Christ is to enter into patterns of behavior and belief that will require change, movement, and motion from us.
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And that movement is going to cut to the core of our households and our families. Christ came to move us into liberation, to call us to fullness of life. We are held, supported, and sustained in the work. We have already won, because Christ has already won. We are held together, even in the midst of conflict; of explosion.
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Compression is the key that enables those thousands of small explosions to move the force of the piston down through the rods and into the driveshaft. So many of the conflicts that we fear the most are just that. Small explosions without direction. Conflagrations that burn through our energy and our effort with no tangible result in the life of a community. Those conflicts that stem from a frank, honest, and charitable conversation around value, around priority, around mission can, with careful guidance, bring about the kind of movement our world is so hungry for.
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The kind of movement worthy of the mechanical poetry of Springsteen and Pirsig. The kind of movement worthy of the Saints and Martyrs cut down so that the work of Christ may continue. The kind of movement that knows peace precisely because it knows conflict. He and his wife Hannah are the exhausted parents of two remarkable boys and two very good dogs. You can find pictures of those dogs on Instagram thebrokechurchman.
Give half of your possessions to the poor. It seems idealistic, yes. It is our humanity getting the best of us. We want the Gospel to be easy, but rarely ever is the Gospel easy. We know that when Jesus taught, it was rarely straightforward; there was always some larger meaning behind his teachings. Recently my husband and I moved.
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Packing was an absolute nightmare. What would you like to make sure we get on the truck? I panicked. As I was pacing back and forth, my family reassured me that it was going to be okay. On the day that the landlord was set to come do a walkthrough of the house with us, I sat in the living room looking at all the stuff that we had left, looking out the window at my tiny subcompact car sitting in the driveway, back at the stuff, and back at the driveway before I just broke down.
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There was simply no way that even the most strategic of packers could get everything into my car. He was right. The reality is this: we all have a lot of stuff , figuratively and literally. It is the experience. Experiencing each other through relationships, experiencing life without distractions, experiencing creation, and experiencing God through all of those things. It seems like a very eschatological idea to think of the kin-dom. It seems very other worldly to think about Jesus coming back.
Perhaps it has very little to do with the afterlife. Maybe, we are being called into deeper relationship through this text. Maybe really, at the core of this scripture, there is a call for repentance—a changing of hearts and minds to shift the focus back to God where it has gotten distracted by materialism.
The kin-dom of which the text speaks is one of love and grace. Be alert, be prepared, we know not when those times will find us; when we are called to speak up and live out the Gospel, but when we live by love, through love, and in love, we are much closer to that kin-dom. I wonder if, perhaps, this is not even a command as much as it is an invitation—an invitation to live into and to be.
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How will we respond? Kevin W.
His passions include Chipotle, ice cream, reality television, bowties, family, and animals. Evangelical culture, both of my youth and today, centers the New Testament and the salvation narrative of Jesus and Bible studies and worship music and personal relationship and well, evangelism. And what happens when we turn we clearly delineate between groups? For example, this is an important distinction in conversations about the harm inflicted by policies that have disproportional consequences for people of color.
This text in Luke, though, pushes us beyond action and into the realm of actual intent. Here, the heart matters too, because the heart is the root of the actions. In this case, it is greed that is undergirding the hoarding of resources for the rich man. My evangelical family knows what to do with this message, too—guard your heart against greed. Know that your time will come at any moment, and your heart should be right with God. Your life is not your own, so get your heart on board with that. I have a nagging suspicion that neither approach is enough, which brings me back to my recent reflections about my two different church families—the evangelicals and the progressives.
The social justice commitment deep in my soul knows that this text pushes us beyond individualistic hoarding, which has a detrimental effect on our society. The message missing from that, however, is the actual heart of the matter. You see, when progressive Christians focus solely on the societal implications of the text, they miss the individual conviction of how we are tempted to live on a daily basis.
On the other hand, if we only personalize the texts every time we read them, we miss the conviction about what this radical idea might mean in an individualistic society. So if I am only called to look at actions, to examine impact rather than intent, I never go to the deeper level in myself that is undergirding my actions. Why am I tempted to hold on tightly to what I have? Is it greed, fear, anxiety? If the only message I receive about this text is that my heart needs to be unselfish, then our society is off the hook.
What if we find a way to preach the whole gospel at once? What each group has in part can be integrated as one transformative, liberative message for both the individual and collective. The gospel is so much bigger than any one church group. She grew up in non-denominational evangelical land and is now an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.
Her areas of interest include education, practical theology, and escaping overthinking by baking, crafting, and watching TV. The last two decades have been riddled by terrorism, natural disasters, and heinous acts of social injustice. Initially, we were shocked. When the twin towers sent smoke billowing into the sky on September 11th, we watched in absolute horror.
The following weeks served as a testament to the American spirit and how we could come together…for a time. Then, one by one, atrocities seemingly began to abound. School shootings, night club massacres, bombings, floods, hurricanes, injustices afflicting many groups…the list built. And answered the way in which they were presented. Or thoughts, for that matter. I know that many of us humbly pray and do so with intentionality, but much of the outside world does not.
So, we march. We organize. We speak out. And we should. We are called to speak out against hatred and we have a sacred desire to come together in community to try to make this world a better version of itself through our actions. Luke provides step-by-step instructions for us. Reteaching those around us and perhaps ourselves that prayer is more about a relationship with God, and is less about controlling the free will of others, is of paramount importance these days.
When travesties occur, our thoughts and prayers do matter ; we have to remind ourselves of that.