"So long as we imagine it is we who have to look for God, we must often lose heart. But it is the other way about—He is looking for us." Simon Tugwell
John Eldridge quotes Simon Tugwell in his devotion today, taken from his book The Sacred Romance. His point is the "practical agnostic" living that many professing believers live today.
"Perhaps God will come through; perhaps He won't, so I'll be hanged if I'll live as though He had to come through. I'll hedge my bets and if He does show up, so much the better. The simple word for this is godlessness."
Yesterday, I went to the 'free Fun day' that is an annual event for the part of the family that attends New Song Church in Walled Lake. They had blow up things for the kids, a cake walk, games and a healing/prophetic table for they are of the charismatic side of the family. I had asked for any prophetic word that they might receive about me, the ministry of which I am a part and this foolish thought of being an Australian missionary. There was nothing that they could discern about this vision…..
I stood outside today, drinking my first cup of coffee for the day and thought about my life. There was nothing that came to me during devotion time, nothing that created that lightbulb effect that tells me that God has something to say….which usually comes into form with a blog entry….and I was thinking how silent and unsure the future seems.
And how we often overlook the historical flavor of our lives because of the present state of affairs.
There is a tree; old, weathered and twisted that resides dead in the way of the patio at my sister's house and the entrance to the backyard. Its limbs are thick and the bark is coarse. It is 'slated' to be removed sometime in the life of this being my sister's residence….and it sits there, as if it doesn't know its fate yet. The leaves still grow, the blossoms bloom and each day passes with its silent testimony of time eternal spoken mootly by its presence.
There's nothing to show for what it once was; a sapling planted or a seed that was born on the winds of change….a young, mature tree that stood saintly upon the ground it stands on still. A older tree that maybe watched its neighbors slowly cut down for the building of the home that is now shadowed by its stretched, weathered limbs.
I feel like that old tree…..old, weathered and in-the-way.
It made me wonder, as I sat there beneath the unnecessary (yet) shade offered silently by this massive marker of the past, how much of my vision of the future is built upon my past expectations and how far from God's style of living that He wants me to live I truly am.
One of the things that the lady who was manning the prophetic/healing table at New Song said was that she stood in agreement with me that if God wanted this vision to come to pass, then it would be God, not me, who brought the people in play that would further the Kingdom business I was to take part in. God would move, not me. God would harvest, not me, from the fields of His people those who would come to make it pass, or to give me a clearer vision of my purpose in the Kingdom.
I know God calls me to ministry, there has been nothing in my life that I have heard with such defining clarity as that call, and yet the shaping of that call has caused me to travel into uncomfortable areas and realize hard things about myself.
And it is the Christian army that is well-known for eating its own wounded. And the church is simply another form of a dinner table.
Berean Bible Church in Livonia was one of the fellowships that we've been invited to from family friends…it is a generational church, one that has families that have been there since their parents went there….sound biblical teaching. But I don't think I belong in that fellowship
Mosaic A2, a church plant from Oak Pointe in West Bloomfield, was the church we went to today, to join in with another part of the family in the first service offered at their new Washtenaw Community College location. It was my brother Wendell at Oak Pointe that told me of this new adventure.
Mosaic, a picture or design made with small pieces of colored material such as glass or tile stuck onto a surface; something consisting of a number of things of different types, forms, or colors.
A2, a catchy little reference to the host city, Ann Arbor. Born from a passion given life in Shannon Nielsen, the lead pastor, to plant a church in a college town….that has taken him from Dallas Theological Seminary to Fellowship Associates' Leadership Residency to the vision he experienced with others today: Mosaic A2, a church that wants to be biblically deep, others focused, intergenerational and diverse, team-based and reproducing (according to their informational statements).
"We are a part of [God's redemptive work], a small part of God's larger mosaic. God's church is not about individuals, but a community. He speaks of the church as a body and a group of individuals with complementary gifts, strengths, and abilities to be used for the common good and to serve those outside the community of faith." (Mosaic A2 handout).
It has been said before, this community-based fellowshipping, and it has become corrupted in the course of bigger buildings, bigger productions and fractional divisions within the 'body.' It is not the vision that changes but the individuals who are involved in its shaping that leads to eventually God being left out of the work He began in the people He empowered to be His hands, feet, arms and mouth.
I know some of my doubt about this 'new' adventure comes from my wounds from being in regular church…..relationship gives way to charismatic leadership and fellowship falls victim to corporate worship style. But, did my heart sing today, if for a while. The worship team was awesome, though I thought smoke in a worship format was a bit much. I am not of the artistic bent…..
Pastor Nielsen has chosen the topic of Encounters to lead off this church with; to see the Jesus of the Bible in direct action in what is the foundational truth of the Christ-movement: relationship. Today was about the "woman caught in adultery" in John 8:2ff.
In the temple courts, in front of thousands who had gathered to hear Christ speak, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law brought a woman, 'caught in the act of adultery'. It is here that Shannon hits me with something so clear I don't know why I hadn't seen it before. The 'leadership' of the Jews cared more about the issues than people. This woman was just a pawn in their attempt to trap Jesus, nothing more.
Jesus cares more about people, Shannon continues, than issues. He begins to write in the sand, the greek word used here literally means "write against", but we aren't told in the text what He wrote. Some theologians say He was writing specific sins that the would-be-stoners had committed, some say just names. Others claim that He was writing the pinpoints of the Sermon on the Mount lesson. But He looks up from His writing as the leaders keep pestering Him and says,
"If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."
He didn't wait to see if anyone would dare throw the first stone but returns to His writing. It is interesting to note that it is the oldest who begin to leave first until everyone is gone. Experience begets honest truth and passion dies quickest in the young…..though this wasn't the focus of Pastor Shannon's sermon.
Nielsen points out that Jesus didn't jump up and dust his hands off, nod to the woman and walk away. That would have been contrary to what we can see of Christ and His ministry….He, as Nielsen says, elevated the woman's dignity, calling her "woman", a title of address of an equal, and thus removed the barrier that often exists in hearing Truth. Dignity restored, He asks simply, "Has no one condemned you?"
A relationship born in the unparalleled state of grace bears fertile ground for the planting of seeds from which truth is grown and fruitful. Jesus doesn't simply walk away, a point made of the foolishness of man, but then puts the 'miracle grow' on the seed grace has planted….truth.
"Neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go and leave your life of sin."
A mosaic, a picture or design made with small pieces of colored material such as glass or tile stuck onto a surface; something consisting of a number of things of different types, forms, or colors, is being painted in the intellectual community of Ann Arbor. A community of different forms, shapes and colors being glued to a tapestry of artful expression that mirrors the beauty, creativity and life that bears the Creator's handiwork.
A work of redemption that seeks not to reinvent the wheel of man's accomplishments but to work with the Creator in the restoration work of a beautiful picture that has 'shattered into a billion pieces.'
An effort that we, as the body of Christ, should be involved in wherever we are…..and one well worth praying for its success in the community center at Washtenaw Community Church.
I don't know if God wants me to be a part of this portion of the family's effort in His kingdom work but I know I will keep the hearts and the vision of its members in my prayers. I am a street boy, from the 'wrong side of the tracks' and uneasy in the company of intellectuals and knowledge crafters…..that is my wound from my life.
But this is what church was meant to be: community, fellowship and reprocation.
Truth balanced with Grace, engaging one another for the sake of a beautiful mosaic born from the Creator's hands.