I grew up as a child of the eighties. It's still my favorite decade. If you've heard my new record you understand this. Somewhere in between U2's Joshua Tree and Indiana Jones' Last Crusade I was being raised as a Pastor's daughter in a Mexican Mission South of Dallas. The majority of our congregants were immigrants with hearts as big and as generous as the size of Texas. Our church community wasn't a place where we clocked in and clocked out every Sunday. Our community was family. If one congregant had a problem we gladly received it as OUR problem. If one new Mom was expecting WE planned a baby shower, whether we had known her for 6 months or 6 years. If there was a death in the family and no life insurance WE passed the plate and WE ensured the family of the deceased could grieve with dignity. I learned empathy and I learned that community often translated into mission and mission was fueled by love, need and unity. I also learned that the church is the place that has been equipped to meet these needs. More than any other group, the church identifies with the very name of Christ. If we take on His name, we as Christians have been equipped, through God's word to draw from His life, His teachings and the example given to us in the new testament church. We don't do this with perfection but we do this with faithfulness and an unyielding commitment to champion the causes and the people that Christ would champion.
It's 2017 and this Mexican Mission in Texas is still alive, still rallying to meet the needs of the community and is ever a true beacon of hope. And while times have changed and while we as a society are becoming more self-focused and autonomous, this community hasn't changed. They don't have much in a worldly sense but would empty their pockets for someone in need. So when I find myself sitting quietly, stunned by the silence of those unwilling to show up for the marginalized, the broken, the powerless and the hurting I remember this church who points me back to Mark 12:30-31:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
with all your mind and with all your strength.
31 “The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”
It's fair to say that as a thirty something woman in the church, born and raised in the U.S. but immersed in the Mexican culture throughout my upbringing, I have never felt more called to these two commandments with a stronger conviction than I do in this moment. It's also fair to say that until recently I had yet to witness the world turning on its side, away from each other. How many of us have watched some of the events that have unfolded in the past year with bewilderment and horror? We've witnessed some unsettling moments in the church at large, in American culture and in our world. Now for the sobering part: I don't see this new America as something we can view as business as usual. We are not in Kansas anymore. We have been through a war of sorts and there is shrapnel in many a heart. And before you write this off as a political post let me assure you that if you look up the definition of political weariness you will see a photo of an ethnically ambiguous brunette with big brown eyes. Yep, that's me. I'm uninterested in dissecting sides and motives and the promises of politicians. I am interested in furthering the conversation we should be having about loving one another, racial reconciliation and how the Gospel is still good news that we must take into every corner of society, even the messy ones.
As I grew up my grandparents recounted stories of surviving the Great Depression and serving during World War II. Their stories were filled with danger, heart break and truth. My grandfather, who wore his purple heart with an ominous post war ache, would tell of foxholes and friends who covered him in the line of fire but never came back home. I knew his stories were both raw and real as his lip quivered and his eyes filled with tears but I had never experienced first hand the jolt of disbelief and grief that accompanied the uncertainty of those times. Given the stable state of our economy and the fact that our national security seems to be stable as well I'll not attempt to compare 2017 to the early 1940's. Many historians would say there is no comparison and I would agree, but the relational discord, the display of insensitivity and (at times) hatred in our country is no less tragic, divisive and perilous.
This is not the first time this world has laid eyes on evil or the apathy that enables it.
From Nero to Hitler, from the Holocaust to Aleppo, times like these have been and
will be until this world draws its final breath.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us
"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. "
Truth. However, do we as followers of Christ have work to do after the shock has worn off but before the tragedy is explained away as some 'normal' cycle of humanity? Are we not called as Christ followers to champion the many categories of those who are powerless? Do we not feel challenged or convicted to reach the marginalized and fearful around us even when what they fear poses no threat to us personally? Have we all not been given a brief vapor of time in which to write beauty into the tragic stories we see unfolding around us?
Here we are in 2017 and I can truly say I've never experienced a thirst to see both the love and the justice of God quite as intensely as I do in this season. As believers we have an invitation to accept, to join God in bringing justice where there is injustice, to join Him in bringing redemption where there is devastation, to do our part to see His kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.
"We see these kingdoms of our own here where power is king
and the meek are poor. We strain with a gaze of earthen awe.
But the pure in heart shall see God." - All Things Right
I penned the lyrics to this song in 2015 with little confidence in the man made systems and constructs of a world broken by the Fall. I later recorded these words with an unflinching assurance in the only God who is all powerful, all present and all knowing; a God who is bringing His love and His justice into the world through His people until He returns, until "the dawn swells with a new light no eye has ever seen." Church, I love you. I was raised inside your four corners and I've given my life to serving you. Now, I invite you to pray and consider what your role is in God's redemptive work in such a crucial time in our country, our culture and our world. You were born into such a time as this for the "good works God prepared in advance for (you) to do." Ephesians 2:10
COURAGE dear Ones. COURAGE.