July is a slower month for us.
We don’t have a board meeting, and we try to slow down a little. It’s an opportunity to breath deeply, rest up, and get ready for rest of the year in ministry together. Of course, with the pandemic still raging, we are far from anything normal. Still, our call continues. I am so thankful to those in our church who weigh the risks and join the marches and vigils in our community, demanding change and transformation.
Later this month, we will continue our prayerful, Spirit-filled Epiphany process to dream of who God is calling us to be as a church, developing a future story.
Please pray for that important work.
Recently in my Doctor of Ministry classwork, I had the chance to listen to Kris King, a community organizer from Oklahoma City. She talked about four key skills that are important to building relationships and developing leaders. I think these skills are part of who we are at University Christian Church, even if we sometimes need refreshing in their value and practice. I think they are also key to who Jesus is and how Jesus was able to gather disciples and connect with so many as he built his resurrection movement.
The four skills are:
Anger: One of the questions that Kris asked us to find out from each other was what makes us angry. Another way to ask the question is - what breaks our heart? We aren’t talking about bad traffic or annoyances or even what the news media tells us to be angry. We are to get in touch with those moments in our life when we experienced and witnessed injustice. Jesus knew those well, including that moment in the temple when he flipped over some tables. What if we shared some of those stories and explored ways to make anger a tool in enacting changes for safer, transformed communities?
Humor: When things are tense or when we are just trying to build bridges of understanding with each other, humor is a great cross-cultural tool. Humor, to me, is linked to humility. We need to laugh at ourselves, at how serious we can be sometimes, and about the absurdity and fun in life. Doing work as a church can be stressful, so what a gift it is to have some fun and make each other laugh. Sometimes, in our ability to be silly, we discover more about each other. I remember that Marcus Borg once called Jesus one of the first Jewish stand-up comedians, because he had a way with words to grab our attention and break the tension. That’s a gift we need more of.
Curiosity: In an election year especially, our conversations can be tense. We are feeling the anxiety. Sometimes, we discover our friends and neighbors are passionately opposite of us on some issue that we care deeply about. What if, instead of diving into a flame war, we tried to find a way to stay open and curios? Tell me more. Who are you? Why do you think about that issue in that way? Curiosity reminds us to humanize each other, staying open, even a little, to learning new ways of understanding the world and each other. Jesus’ curiosity was evident in the way he observed all of Creation and even the way humans went about their business, weaving those into parables and stories that helped us look deeper than what is on the surface.
Imagination: Finally, we must have imagination. Imagination is the belief that something more is possible. Our political system has very little imagination at times. Our leaders seem to offer us little imagination of what might be. Even our churches, we sometimes spend too much energy trying to make an old way of being faithful fit for these unusual times. We need imagination, to see through Jesus’ eyes at what is possible, a kingdom breaking in here and now. Truth be told, I am so grateful for so many of the young people out marching, because they believe something more is possible.
I invite you to sit with these. Where do you see them at work in our church? Where could we do better? How might we need to regroup and try afresh to build connections with each other and our neighbors?
May God, who has led us to this moment, continue to lead us into the unknown that is our world, eager to make a difference, ready to do our part to dismantle racism and all oppression, and willing to be transformed.
— Rev. Nathan