A Few Things I’m Learning…
After being back in Abilene for the last 6 months and working with Connecting Caring Communities, here are a few things Jesus has been teaching me about moving into the neighborhood. First of all, I need to,
Be With, Eat With, Others. Jesus often got in trouble with the religious dudes [Pharisees, Sadducees, Sanhedrin] because of who he hung out with, ate with: sinners, tax collectors, whores, etc. He was not only a man for others; he was a man with others. He did not march in the street for the rights of lepers; he touched lepers, healed lepers. He did not just look out for the outcast; he was the outcast! As He says in Matthew 25, I was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, in prison. He was concerned because the people were, “harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.” He moved into our world as John 1:14 says: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” Jesus was comfortable eating at the table with anyone. I need to invite others to the table as valued guests and neighbors.
Secondly, I must have,
Inclusive Compassion. As we work in the neighborhoods of Abilene, we are about inclusive compassion for all! We want everyone to come to the table and share a meal, share stories, share life. Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus moving toward those who seem most unlikely–the blind, the sick, the lepers, the demon-possessed, the folks who just make me uncomfortable! Why? The compassion of God does not have any “ifs” or “buts”–it is inclusive. It is a compassion that, to borrow the words of Father Greg Boyle, “Can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” To have inclusive compassion we must embody author Wendell Berry’s injunction: “You have to be able to imagine lives that are not yours.”
Inclusive compassion is possible when I choose to,
Love All. Jesus said that if you love those who love you, big whoop! Every run-of-the-mill sinner can handle that, but how are you doing with your enemies? How are you doing with those who are different from you in every imaginable way? How’s your love for ISIS, Republicans, Democrats, LBGTQs, Muslims, hoochies, holier-than-thous, refugees, hyper-sensitives, hyper-criticals, victims, victimizers, reds, browns, yellows, blacks, whites? Love God, love people–all of ’em!
At CCC we are trying to build real relationships with our neighbors so that our neighborhoods will be safer, more caring, and holistically healthy. We are actively seeking God’s kingdom as we pray for it to come and his will to be done here in Abilene as it is in heaven. We move into neighborhoods that are in need to be neighbors who are seeking to incarnate God’s love. It is living now by extending small acts of self-giving love in the course of our daily routines. And when we do this, God’s kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven!