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Life Together: The Diomass Intern Program

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Friday, February 26, 2010

BOOM! We are Christ's Body

Below is a sermon given by Micah intern Tyler Bridge at The Crossing. It was written in response to Luke 4:14-21. 

Luke 4:14-21

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Initially when I hear this story I want to say, “Boom! That’s my Jesus!”  I want to run around proclaiming to everyone how awesome Jesus is. I want to say, “Did you hear that? Christ is the Messiah. He’s going to bring good news to the poor, release the captives, restore sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free.” But then I begin to dig deeper. I remember that as Christians we are called to not only admire and follow Jesus, but we are called to be like Christ; we are called to be Christ’s body.

I hear that a lot these days. “We are Christ’s body.” And I find myself asking, “What the heck does that mean?” And it wasn’t until recently that I was able to answer this question for myself.

I am a small-town West-Texas boy working for the Diocese of Massachusetts in an internship program that holds intentional community living as a key component. I have been thrust into a house with 6 other interns, and we are expected share our space, our time, and our emotions with one another. (Does this sound like Episcopal Church reality TV show to anyone else?)  Every Tuesday morning, rain or shine, happy or sad, awake or asleep, we have a meeting to discuss our community. What is going on, what is going well, what is not going so well, who is overcome with joy, who is angry, who can’t stop laughing, and who is steeped in sadness? (You know the questions one usually gets asked on Tuesday mornings.)

One Tuesday I had had a particularly difficult week both as an individual and as a member of the community. It was the week before Thanksgiving, and I had just returned from the rather difficult funeral of my grandmother, Memaw is what we called her. My Memaw played no small part in my development both as a person and most importantly as a Christian, and dealing with her death and funeral was enough to inundate me with sadness. But going home to Texas is also something that brings me a lot of pain, and on this trip not only did I have to endure an alter call at the funeral service of my beloved grandmother, but also my mother and the pastor of her church telling me that I should really take a “serious look at my faith, and that I should reevaluate my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” These weren’t words of encouragement. Quite the opposed in fact, they said all this because they fear that the way I choose to practice my Christianity is a perversion, and they think I am missing the mark because I don’t have in their eyes a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”

And that’s where I was sitting on a plane, flying back to Boston, questioning my faith, and realizing that the person that had been my spiritual guide for the past 25 years was not longer on this Earth. I came into our community meeting that Tuesday feeling detached, lonely, and broken, and our time together reflected that struggle. As I looked around the room, it was like the members of my community had each been facing similar challenges of individual and community life as well. We needed a sign, we needed love, we needed healing, we needed Jesus, and we got it. We gave voice to our pain, we sat together, we cried together, and with the help of each other we were able to overcome our fear, our loneliness, our brokenness, and at the close of our meeting, as I sat with tears in my eyes, feeling totally reconciled both with my community and with God, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I ceased see specific individuals within my community, but I realized that all I saw in their faces was the face of Jesus. That’s what it means to have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” and that’s what it means to be Christ’s body.

I see Christ here in the life of this diocese as well. I hear Christ’s voice when Jamie leads us in the full-bodied worship experience of song. I feel Christ’s footsteps when we gather together hundreds of youth from all over eastern Massachusetts at the Barbra C. Harris camp and conference center for the High School Youth and the Pre-Confirmation retreats to learn about and explore our faith, and we spread out over the entire Jack Dorian Center and dance to our hearts content, I see Christ’s hands in the work of the Hope in Action campaign, a campaign lead by the young adults of the Diomass intern program, and I feel Christ’s open heartbeat in this community today. A community that is willing to throw open your doors to me and Jamie and Rev. Steph to live and share and expand our faith through our common bond of Jesus Christ our Savior. I recognize Christ in all of these things because I recognize Christ in all of you.

In this story Christ is the one who is going to change the world, but do we just sit at home and let him do it alone? I think the answer is a resounding, no. We are Christ’s body, and if we expect him to reconcile this broken world then we are going to have to mobilize his hands and feet. We are the ones called to bring good news to the poor,  we are the ones called to release the captives, restore sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free.

We are Christ’s body. We are the ones called to do God’s work on Earth, because we are called to be like Christ in everything we do, everyway we do it. So imagine you are Jesus in this story, you are handed the scroll, you get up to read, and when you are finished you sit down with all eyes fixed upon you, and you say “I am like Christ, and I will fulfill scripture with my life.” 

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Finding worship in play

This post was contributed by LifeTogether intern Mac Stewart.

 The other day, I came across this passage in a book I am reading:

 “Worship can be seen as the explicitly religious form of play. Worship may possibly be experienced as an island of rest on a working day; it may possibly be experienced as a bout of labor on a day of rest. But it will be best experienced as the resolution of work and rest in play. It will then be genuinely re-creation.”

 Worship is religious playfulness. I love that idea. For one thing, the idea seems to tie together nearly all of the themes that have, this year, taken hold of my walk with God in the world. To be playful requires you to be present, to be aware of who and what is going on around you, to be mindful of this moment without the conscious interference of guilt over what you have or haven’t done or anxiety over what you “ought to be doing.” It requires you to be in this moment with joy, knowing the simple pleasures of skipping rocks on a river, or playing catch with your dog, or belting out your favorite hymns at the top of your lungs to the chagrin of your intentional community housemates (e.g., “One Bread, One Body”). As the passage suggests, play can become a place of appropriate balance or rhythm within the repetitive cycle of work and rest. Above all, playfulness embodies a posture of gratitude: thanks and praise for the sheer gift that we exist.

 The more immediate reason that this passage stuck with me, however, is because my work at the moment has me thinking about play. The church in Dorchester at which I find myself (as a Micah Intern) is attempting to install a new playground to replace our old “playground” (a wooden swing set with rotting wood and zero swings). As I speak with playground vendors and try to raise support from partner churches for this project, I can’t help repeatedly returning in my head to the question, “What good is a playground going to do for kids in such a poor neighborhood? They need education for a future, not a place to waste time on a jungle gym.” A perfectly legitimate question (and, incidentally, our church also has in the works an SAT prep tutoring program). But I think, with inspiration from the author quoted above, the following counter-question might serve as strong motivation for me taking this project as seriously as any SAT prep course: “What good is a future without a place to play.”

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"doing the dishes..."

This post was contributed by Justin Harvey, The Crossing's Diomass Intern.

Washing dishes is one of those mundane tasks that we all face sooner or later. Some love it. Some hate it. I would venture to say the majority of people try to avoid it. Working at coffee shops for the past few years, I did a fair share of dishes on a daily basis. One day while wiping a dingy towel through another coffee mug, this Scripture passage came to mind, and I now cannot wash dishes without thinking about these words in Luke 11:37-41:

"When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised. Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people. Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?"

And here’s where his words hit hard (for this reader at least):

"But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.”

I won’t attempt any commentary on this passage at the moment, because it gives me so much to ponder. I do, however, welcome your thoughts, dear friends, on how this speaks to you. And maybe the next time you are doing the dishes, you’ll join with me in pondering these words of our Lord.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

This post was contributed by Relational Evangelist Waetie Kumahia.

 One of the wonderful opportunities that has come with this year of service is the opportunity for deep thinking and listening. As we have slowed down to examine the intricacies of how we build and sustain communities, we have been guided by our belief in the power of God in the midst of our relationships. Most recently, several of us attended an MIT conference sponsored by Trinity Wallstreet, and hosted by MIT Chaplain, Rev. Amy McCreath. The conference, Building an Ethical Economy, was organized by MIT's Technology and Culture Forum, and helped us look at both micro- and macro- examples of what this work can look like. I was particularly challenged by our charge to examine how our entire use of money reflects our true priorities. It was clear that many of us could imagine ways we could better align our spending with God's will for our communities. This has become especially clear in the midst of the crisis in Haiti. Everything we discussed during the conference has been great inspiration for me as I am planning my sermons for the congregations of St. Mary's in Dorchester and Christ Church in Needham this week.

And, as we prepare to enter the season of Lent, I am more committed to examining the things and patterns of consumption that have the potential to separate me from other people and my God. When I was making my New Year's resolutions, these ideas were not first and foremost in my thoughts. Instead, my work with young adults in Dorcherster, Bunker Hill Community College, and our church communities was pushing me to see the greater power of acts of service when we do them together. But these efforts are now reminding me of a book I read at the beginning of the year: The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical , by Shane Claiborne, a book that was a gift to all of the Life Together interns. At the time, reading this book seemed fantastic, like a romantic series of events in the life story of someone completely touched and directed by God. Turning back to this text now, having learned what I have learned, experienced what I have experienced, it all seems a little more within reach. Not because it seems any easier, but because I realize that it is only me (and my desires for comfort) which take me away from a life that looks more like a continuous fellowship with others.

So, what about you? Are you struggling on the path? Or if you have figured something out about how to move forward on this path? If so, please feel free to share what you have figured out! Thanks for Reading, WK