Beginning again and again

There has been much conversation about Christian community over the years. “What does it mean to be in community with one another,” we have asked. “Who is on the in and who is on the out,” we have pondered. The hard thing about walking with Jesus is that we rarely catch him casting out. Mostly Jesus is circling everyone in. This means that we have to learn how to live with a circle that is ever-widening. Our tendency would be to keep those close to us that make the most sense to us. It is an actual discipline to widen the circle of embrace, for if we don’t embark upon this disciplined life of boundary breaking, we will find ourselves living in the boxes that our culture creates for us and on the side lines missing out on the great adventure Jesus calls us to.

In order to break the boundaries, we have to step outside of the boxes of our everyday routines. This makes perfect sense until we have to live into it, for routines bring with them a sense of comfort.  Just a couple of weeks ago forty six members of both the South Tryon Community Church and Myers Park United Methodist Church embarked upon a pilgrimage in which boundaries were broken. We gathered on a charter bus to set out on a tour of the City of Charlotte. Though Charlotte is one of the most beautiful cities, there is a layer of history that lies beneath. Uptown Charlotte was built over an African American neighborhood named Brooklyn. There is little evidence of this place many would have called home today. It was hard to listen to this story, but it was harder still to listen to the worries of our friends in the South Tryon community about what will happen to their community with all the development going on in Charlotte.

imageThis bus tour was the beginning of some deeper work that Pastor Tiffany Thomas and I are planning for our two communities. It was not the place we understood answers would be found, but more a place for us all to begin again. After journeying together for many years, the two communities are recognizing there is an opportunity for us to move in our relationship to a place that will require more from us. Partnership across divides requires a walking with over many years and a growing with in the midst of some of our deepest fears. Hearing these stories about the history of Charlotte unsettled some of the residue that hangs in the air and that residue took up residence among us after we stepped off the bus. Part of our ongoing journey will be learning what it means to walk together through the unsettled residue from the pages of the past towards a future that brings us closer together.

Life might have been easier if we had not stepped foot on the bus to hear the history that is hard and challenging, but we would not have been doing the work that is required of us as Christian people seeking to live in community with one another. Widening the circle of our embrace means the ground shifts beneath our feet and stories that once were theirs become ours and stories that are ours become theirs. Jesus does not make life easy for us, rather he lifts up a vision of a Kingdom that becomes a reality worth giving ones life for. A bus ride is not going to get us to the Kingdom, but it is a place to begin again and each day we find another way to begin again in our work of widening our embrace, until we recognize that we are better listeners across divides and better friends with the ones we have chosen to journey with.

God is so good and there is a goodness God calls us to find with one another. When we live in the goodness of life together, we will recognize that the goodness is found in the midst of hardship, in the midst of real struggles, and in the midst of stories we wish were not true. Building up the Kingdom here on Earth as it is in heaven will exact from us the cost of our very lives. Are we seeking to widen the circle of our embrace? Are we living within the boxes marked out by our culture or breaking down the boundaries that divide us? Are we using our voice to make a difference in the midst of stories that should not be true? The good news is within each day is the chance to begin again and again until we look around and witness the gift of God’s Kingdom being realized all around us on this place we inhabit called earth.

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