To Belong is to Experience Grace

To Belong is to Experience Grace

John 8:1-11 finds Jesus faced with a challenge. Religious leaders bring a woman they've caught in the act of adultery. We know this because they literally tell Jesus she was caught in the act. This wasn't gossip or rumored affair. Someone literally went to wherever this act of adultery was happening and witnessed it and then dragged this woman before Jesus. 

I'm not going to lie, just the first few verses of this story make me angry. Furious, in fact. For a variety of reasons...

- These religious leaders were so serious about someone else sinning that they had to literally seek her out. 

- Where is the man in this situation? It takes two to tango, eh? 

- The self-righteous manner in which they approach Jesus with this woman, believing they've put him in his place. 

This story illustrates one of my favorite aspects of Jesus, though. When confronted like this, Jesus doesn't fall into a trap of trying to give a systematic answer to debate the religious leaders. Instead, he kneels down and begins writing something in the sand at his feet. We don't know what he wrote, but it is believed that he wrote the sins of the men who were ready to stone this woman. He then said some of the most powerful words spoken in Scripture: "He who has no sin can cast the first stone." And one by one, they dropped their stones and left until it was just the woman before Jesus. 

To Belong is to Gather Together

To Belong is to Gather Together
Every parting gives a foretaste of death; every coming together again a foretaste of the resurrection. - Arthur Schopenhauer, German Philosopher

I try not to get in the habit of quoting German philosophers too often. It makes folks think I’m pretentious and that I actually know things. With the internet, anyone can get quotes, even perfectly spot on quotes, and pretend they read them in an old book that can be found by their bedside. This quote was found with a quick google search. And with that ease, I look like I have knowledge of things I know very little about. 

This quote is so powerful, though. and encouraging. And quite Biblical. A few friends and I came together two years ago and decided we wanted to start a church in the center of Cincinnati, in the heart of Over the Rhine. It has been a life-giving, encouraging and simultaneously frightening and frustrating process of learning to trust God and others with hopes and dreams. Hopes and dreams given by God and called out by friends. 

As we’ve been walking this out, we’ve realized how important it is to gather together. One of the major ways the church is lived out, in any context, is through the act of gathering together. This act, which for many in our culture has become rote, trite and stodgy, is an act that our faith hinges on. Whether it happens in an old, beautiful church building, a school auditorium or in someone’s living room, this act is the first ingredient to any community. Obviously. You have to be together, do life together, to create a community. But why gather together as the church? 

Time, Treasures & Talent

Time, Treasures & Talent

Last night in our missional community gathering we were reflecting on how we can use our time, talents and treasures to create space for people to belong.  The context of this discussion was a story that Jesus tells in Matthew 25 about a master and three servants, each who have been given a rather large sum of money ( 1 talent equals about 15 years of wages) to steward while the master is away.  

If you're not familiar with the story it goes something like this...The first servant is given 5 talents to watch over and is able to double it to 10.  The second servant is given 2 talents and is able to double it to 4.  And the third servant is given 1 talent and decides to bury it out of fear and concern for what may happen.

So when the master returns, two of the servants or lauded with praise and gratitude for being "good and faithful" (can you guess which two) for doing something with what they have been given.  The last servant though (sorry I'm giving it away) is scolded, to put it mildly, for burying what that servant had been given and is actually called "wicked."