Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Homelessness and Friendship

Mark showed up at our church the same as many others do in his situation - he's homeless. On any given Sunday there are about twenty to twentyfive homeless people at our church, many there to worship, some to grab a shower and hangout, others just for sake of a change of scenery.

Ministering to homeless people requires the development of certain kind of discernment. You hear a lot of stories from people on the streets and it can be difficult to tell what's true, a lie, or psychosis (really, this is not limited to homeless people).

The story I heard from Jennifer (a lady in our church deeply involved in ministering to the homeless of Kansas City) was that Mark just got our of prison (20 years), the whole world has changed, he doesn't know how to adjust, and he's been homeless for a couple of months. I didn't really know how I was going to respond when I saw him. My usual approach to situations like this, especially with our homeless friends, is to hug them and tell them that I'm happy to see them. I did this with Mark and realized after eight, ten, and fifteen seconds of him not letting go that something was different here.

Through his tears he began to tell me his story, a conversation which we had to cut short that day but one we picked up later on over lunch. After he got out of prison, he went home to Alabama and met a girl. He admitted that he was lonely and liked the attention. But she was addicted to pills and this got him into trouble. Around the same time as things started to get bad with this girl, he got laid off from work (he's a welder). He took his unemployment money and came to Kansas City in hopes of getting away from this girl and to start a new job. His living and work situation broke down entirely in KC and he found himself on the streets. He was homeless for three months before "Old Man Ed" told him about the van that brings homeless people to church.

I'm happy to say that Mark got on a Greyhound bus yesterday heading back to Alabama. The girl is out of the picture and he's got a lead on a job, which he will hopefully start this Friday. Asking people in our church for money to buy a bus ticket is about the easiest thing in the world to do, especially when he's got a house and family and a job waiting for him on the other end. All Mark wanted to do was get back home and we helped him with that.

Part of the problem of homelessness in our culture is that we categorize it. We put people in the category and then we try to solve the category. There are a whole host of reasons why homelessness exists that I won't try to sort out right now. But for my money, the place to begin is with the people themselves. Mark's was the perfect example of how things can go wrong and how hard it can be to get out. He would tell me that he didn't want to end up like some of the other guys around him that had given up and given themselves over to substance abuse. But he did recognized how strong the pull was towards apathy, especially when so many ministries and approaches to homeless (again, as a category) are organized around handouts.

I realize that every person who lives on the streets has a different story and that each person is there for a different reasons, but then that's my point: for each person, there is a unique circumstance that has to be taken into specific consideration. This is why we have to break out of the category game. It's not homelessness, it's Jacquie, Jacob, Old Man Ed, Mark, Cutter, Peter, Quiola, Joe, Jamelyn, Wolly, Anne, Turtle, Crystal, Gary, and Greg. Mark reminds me that sometimes there's an easy fix to a situation. I'm not worried about Mark once he gets back to Alabama. But for others it's more complex and not so easy to fix. Either way it begins with friendship, with knowing the names and face of people so that it begins to hurt a little when things happen to them on the streets.

Mark kept telling me he wanted to pay our church back. I told him no. After his initial persistence I finally conceded and said if you want to pay it back then do something for someone else later on. He told me he would. So, if you're ever in Alabama and a guy named Mark helps you out, give thanks to God.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Redemption Church was featured in an article about ministering to the poor and homeless!

Below is an article by John Ashmen, President of Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM). We recently had him out to speak at our church about ministering to the poor and especially the homeless. He decided to write in his regular newsletter about his experience of being at our church and about our church's ministry to the homeless. Check it out!

Coming to a Church Near You
By John Ashmen

It’s a typical suburban church building in a typical suburban neighborhood. It sits on a sometimes-busy street lined with ranch-style houses. The local grammar school is a Frisbee-throw away—if you can clear the fence.

The grass out in front of the church would probably take 40 minutes to mow, depending on how many times the laborer stopped for lemonade. Out back is a typical macadam parking lot that looks to hold about 60 cars. Behind that is a concrete overflow lot that could probably take another 20.

Wherever you stand on the property, the roofline hints at the history of the place: an original sanctuary to the north, a new worship center to the south, and a Sunday school and office wing that connects them, all made of typical red bricks and all probably built about a decade apart.

But what’s going on these days at Redemption Church in Olathe, Kansas, is far from typical. This seems to be the fault of a guy named Jim.

A few years ago, Jim and his wife, Jennifer, encountered some homeless men on the street. During their conversation, Jim suggested that they go to church. He then recommended a church where he thought they might slip in unnoticed. Jennifer abruptly scolded her husband in front of the men for not suggesting their own church. After a few awkward moments, Jim offered to pick them up the following Sunday and take them to Redemption.

At first it was a couple of men. And then it was a couple more. Soon, “Christian Jim” (as he is now know among the homeless population) was making regular Sunday morning runs in a customized van, piling in homeless folks and entertaining them en route with gospel music from the 30-speakers sound system in the long white Dodge.

Today, about 20 percent of the congregation of 150 is made up of homeless people. Other members now drive their vehicles down to the homeless camps along the Kansas River and collect congregants. About a dozen of those who attend regularly have embraced the gospel and now follow Jesus.

I was at Redemption Church this past Wednesday night. A dozen staff and key leaders invited me to join them for some savory Kansas City barbecue. As we ate, I absorbed their excitement and responded to their anxieties.

“I think we’ve started something here that we can’t stop,” said one woman. “But based on what Scripture calls us to do, I don't think we should stop. What do you think?”

“This is the reason my two teenage boys are excited about church,” declared one of the men. “If I told them we were going to do away with the Bible and start using the Koran in church, they would probably just shrug. But if I told them that we were no longer going to bring homeless people into our fellowship, they almost certainly would stop coming.”

“Down the hall you’ll see that we built a large bathroom with a shower,” a younger gal pointed out. “Some of us are now part of the ‘shower ministry,’ I guess you could say. We offer hygienic care so that both the people getting the showers and those they will be sitting next to in the service will be comfortable. Should we add more showers, or is that a crazy idea?”

Before dessert, I offered Pastor Tim, Associate Pastor Scott, and the others several things to consider:
  1. Be deliberate. Think through then write out your ministry philosophy. Have your church leaders review and approve it. Be careful to communicate that you are foremost a church. Don’t create false expectations for anybody in the congregation—the homeless or the home-secure.
  2. Declare your convictions. Proclaim your orthopraxy in conspicuous ways—maybe through photos, slogans, and the like—so visitors and new families know why your church is not typical as it pertains to attendees.
  3. Be safe. Security is foremost. Take nothing for granted. Attitudes and behaviors of people you think you are getting to know can change from week to week. Make your nursery and primary education wing for parents and children only.
  4. Don’t offer meals every Sunday. Quite a few places will feed homeless people. They know where they are. Show that you are a church family first. Do an all-church supper maybe once a month, but invite everybody.
  5. Don’t overextend yourselves in services. Maybe concentrate on shoes and socks and foot care. But know where to find the services you cannot provide. 
  6. Tailor Sunday school classes. Remember that education and life skills lead to employment and independence. There is nothing wrong with teaching reading in Sunday school.
  7. Think “we.” Try to move away from a mentality of “us” serving “them.” Homeless individuals want a sense of community more than they want to be your “mission field.” Preach often from James 2.
  8. Use the arts. Music, drama, poetry, paintings, and such have an amazing effect on people who are not used to long lectures. God gave us the arts, and they definitely can be part of our worship. 
  9. Create a “living room.” Have an area in the church where homeless people can sit relax, converse, and generally mingle with the rest of the body of Christ before and after the service. Such a setting helps build community. 
  10. Communicate with local campuses. Get the word out to students at local colleges through the ministry services department or campus ministries (i.e., InterVarsity, The Navigators, and Cru) about what you are doing. Without a doubt, many will want to join such a faith community. Being with the poor is where many of their hearts are.
  11. Don’t attempt to handle recovery. Love them first. Don’t try to cure them from their addictions. That is something that takes training and expertise beyond what most—if not all—members of your church have. 
  12. Partner with a local rescue mission. AGRM has two member missions in Kansas City. They know addiction recovery. Get to know those who minister at the missions and tell them who is attending your church. It’s likely that they know some of the folks, and they would be happy to offer some insights.
We weren’t done. Following the leadership meeting, we went to the worship center where another 50 or so people had gathered—pretty good for a Wednesday night these days—to talk about Invisible Neighbors. (Everybody who came received a copy of the book.) My 30-minute talk was followed by another hour of questions, tearful testimonies, and fellowship.

I deeply believe that what Redemption Church is doing is a foretaste of things to come. Why do I think this? Every week at AGRMwe receive multiple inquiries  from churches wanting to know how they can serve the poor in their communities and bring them into their fellowships. They ask: Can you help us with resources or give us advice? They lament: We have no place else to turn.

In your next executive staff meeting, imagine what it would be like to have 10, 20, or maybe even 50 churches in your community really partnering with you on a Redemption-Church level. It certainly isn’t far fetched.

Read AGRM’s vision statement and concentrate on the final phrase. As we approach our 100th anniversary in the association, I urge you to make this a matter of prayer.

AGRM will foster and feed a movement of diverse, energetic disciples who will see the practice of hospitality to the destitute as both a catalyst for life transformation in Jesus and a fundamental expression of their Christian faith, thus propelling the church into the lead role in society’s quest to alleviate homelessness.

There is definitely more to come.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bottom Line: The Rich Have to Share

Back when I was a bellman/valet, it was the middle-class, working people who were always the best tippers. Seriously, living in KC, whenever there was a NASCAR race we were stoked! The same with a big event in the convention center where the vendors needed help unloading their stuff. We gladly gave up two hours to help because we knew the payoff would be worth it.

Working for tips always felt like a kind of slave labor, but somehow in our capitalistic culture we've figured out a way to make it work, at least for the time being. I have serious reservations about how sustainable is such a way of life. In other words, ultimately I'm not convinced that a better wage labor system is the answer to our problems.

What got me thinking about these things was a recent Pew Research poll indicating that from 2009-2011 the rich got richer, and the poor poorer. This won't surprise a lot of us of a middle/lower socio-economic status, but numbers always help when it comes to seeing how things really are.

I imagine these numbers vary from poll to poll, but I think it's right to recognize an increasing wealth gap in the U.S.

The bottom line is, I think, until the world changes or something other/better than capitalism comes along ... the rich have to share.

For those already doing this, you're awesome! Teach your other weatlhy friends that it's not the end of the world, that they can be responsible with their hand-outs so that they are not wasted perpetuating a cycle of poverty. Or better yet, just become friends with the poor themselves. You might actually find yourself on the receiving end of something greater the just wealth redistribution.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 in Music

Several years ago I started to drop songs into a folder in iTunes, songs that stood out to me for various reasons throughout the year. Some were brand new songs I had never heard of before. Others were ones that for various reasons I found myself returning to. I didn't grow up really listening to music, except in church, but somewhere in seminary music started to really matter to me, perhaps because it became another way for me to pray. I hope you enjoy my 2012 in music lineup. Drop me a post and let me know if you liked any of this, or even make a few suggestions of your own!

1. Led Zeppelin, "Good Time Bad Times"
2. Abney Park, "The Wrath of Fate"
3. Adele, "Someone Like You"
4. Buddy Guy, "Damn Right I've Got the Blues"
5. The Avett Brothers, "At the Beach"
6. Shelby Lynne, "Willie and Laura Mae Jones"
7. The Dave Brubeck Quartet, "Take Five"
8. The National, "About Today"
9. Lowercase Noises, "A Highway Shall Be There"
10. The Avett Brothers, "The Once and Future Carpenter"
11. All the Bright Lights, "Wilora Lake"
12. Reverend Jon Birch, "When I Lay My Burden Down"
13. Radiohead, "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box"
14. John McKenna Band, "Beautiful Dangerous"
15. The Album Leaf, "We Need Help"
16. David Bazan, "Curse Your Branches"
17. Yo-Yo Ma, "Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007: Prélude"
18. Shelby Lynne, "Heaven's Only Days Down the Road"
19. Matt Redman, "10,000 Reasons"
20. Cambridge King's College Choir, Peter Scorer, Stephen Cleobury & Tobias Sims, "Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, Op. 31: XXIII. Dismissal and Blessing"
21. Kaki King, "Skimming the Fractured Surface to a Place of Endless Light"
22. Mumford & Sons, "Below My Feet"


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Monk Habits for Everyday People

At a certain point during our weekly worship gathering, I get to stand up and lead our church in a modified version of the prayers of the people. We always begin this movement of worship with silence and then confession. The silence lasts somewhere around fifteen seconds, although I always shoot for thirty. As little and insignificant as that may seem, it's intentional; and because it's a part of the liturgy of worship it's deep with meaning.

Chapter three of Dennis Okholm's book, Monk Habits for Everyday People, is called "Learning to Listen." (Read my first post here.)

Silence is not just about not talking. In fact, Benedict never urged for total silence. The restraint of speech was a matter of hospitality. Because they all lived together in a monastic community, silence was encouraged over an excessive amount of talking. Thus, one should speak only when words were necessary. Of course, this begs the question as to how one knows when words are and are not necessary. This is partly why this community practiced intentional times of silence. If you never stop talking then you are not able to know when is the right time to be silent. By practicing silence we learn when to speak and when not to speak. Of course, when they spoke intentionally it was in the form prayer, specifically reading the Psalms. This says a lot about how we learn to speak as Christians. When you begin to follow Jesus, you are just not able to speak maturely about Him. You have to learn how to speak and the Psalms, for example, can train us in this. Consider that Paul spent fourteen years after his conversion learning before he spoke in any sort of public and authoritative way. This should make us pause.

Okholm quotes Michael Casey on this, a point speaks to North American cultures situation of just utter noise. "Talk restricts our capactiy to listen, it banishes mindfulness and opens the door to distraction and escapism. Talking too much often convinces us of the correctness of our own conclusions and leads some into thinking they are wise. IT can be a subtle exercise in arrogance and superiority. Often patters of dependence, manipulation, and dominance are established and maintained by the medium of speech."

In case you're ever wondering, this is why we take time to be silent in worship. Too much is riding on the church's capacity to know when to speak and when to be silent, as well as how to speak and how to be silent.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Public Jesus (Chapter One)

Last week I mentioned that every year our church does something called The Blitz. This year were using Public Jesus by Tim Suttle. In hopes of priming the pump for this conversation, I thought I might post a few thoughts and questions from the book.

Chapter one of Public Jesus is called, "To be a Human Being in the World." Here we encounter several things:

(1) Being born and becoming conscious of a world that was here before we were.
(2) The Christian version, or story, about how we got here and why, specifically related to the book of Genesis and person of Jesus as it relates to the creation and redemption of the world.
(3) Being salt and light, which is about the public nature of Christianity.

At one point near the end of chapter Tim says, "The church is the way God is now physically present to the world."

I'm curious how this sounds to North American Protestant Evangelicals (or NAPEs as I like to call them, of which I am one) who are typically prone to view God as utterly accessible: We have a personal relationship with Jesus, God hears every single one of our prays AND answers them, and speaks to us in the process with an uncanny kind of clarity. NAPEs lean into the utterly accessible (and often times instant) side of God's relationship with the world.

It tends to be that NAPEs overplay the instant and accessible card to the detriment of a more robust ecclesiology that speaks of God being present to the world through the church. I think there's a good conversation waiting to be had here about what it means to say, to put it another way (a la Steve McCormick and the Orthodox tradition), that the church is God's new epiphany in the world, i.e. that the church is the new way through whom God is primarily related to the world. For most NAPEs we want to recapture a more robust ecclesiology BUT, I think, not without losing the sense that God has not limited the way He is present to the world. In other words, can we not also say that God does in fact move redemptively outside of the church as well?

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top ten Mitt Romney solutions to our problems

On Facebook this morning, I took a jab at Obama saying: "What do you think will be talked about more today: (1) The controversial Seahawk touchdown or (2) that as the foreign heads of state were gathering for the United Nations convention, the Obama's went on The View?" See Dana Milbank's article here.

(I really should of jabbed the NFL refs as well. Oh well, next time.)

For the sake of being fair, here's a jab for Mitt as well (and no I'm not crossing sports references). Check out Juan Cole's top ten Mitt Romney solutions to our problems.

Monday, September 24, 2012

In the interest of have a better political conversation... It's all political

This is part one in a serious of posts I'm calling: In the interest of having a better political conversation...

So, in the interest of having a better political conversation... It's all political.

Politicians will typically pivot to blame their opposition for saying or doing things merely for the sake of playing politics. Case in point: Mitt Romney's criticism of Barak Obama's response to embassy attack in Libya, to which Ben LaBolt (Obama's campaign spokesman) responded that he was "shocked" that during a time like this Romney "would choose to launch a political attack."

While it's not shocking to me that people blame other people for merely playing politics when there are real issues at stake (because it happens all the time), it's frustrating that this kind of slam goes on often times without regard to the fact that it is all political and it can't be any other way and that this is not a bad thing or something to be feared. Politics, as such, isn't the enemy and shouldn't be used as a means by which one politician asserts him or herself as better than another. In fact, when you hear a politician blaming another politician for merely playing politics, you should assume that the politician doing the blaming is trying to get their agenda over on you with you know it. That's deceiving.

Politicians all over the place stand up and tell you why their plan is better than the other persons, but it's so duplicitous because as soon as they see an opportunity to take political advantage, mostly in regards to winning an election, they blame the other person for playing politics, thus setting themselves up as being more like the average person, who apparently is not political. This is demeaning.

Inherent in the slam that someone is playing politics is this notion that that person has some kind of (secret) agenda that's working you over, which is why you shouldn't trust professional politicians who spend their lives playing politics just so they can stay in power. However, inherent in the slam itself, that someone is merely playing politics, is also the notion that the one doing the slamming has a (secret) agenda, as well, that's working you over. This is what the person doing that blaming doesn't want you to know because then they can't try to back door you with their agenda.

Why not be forthcoming with it in the first place? It's all politics, which is not a contested idea. It's regularly assumed by political scientists and theologians, dating all the way back to Aristotle. Real political people don't try to hide that fact that they might have some good ideas about how this world should be organized. Whether you agree with them or not is a whole other issue, but at least they are forthcoming. And that would be refreshing.

So, watch out for what I'm calling the playing-politics-blame-game because really it's all political.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Monk Habits for Everyday People

“The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people of gifted people, but deep people” (Richard Foster). This is how Dennis Okholm opens his book, Monk Habits for Everyday People. Plain and simple: the sheer noise, distraction, stimulation, and escapism that is American culture is as much against the way of Jesus as a BoSox fan is against the Yankees. While American Christians might claim the desire to cultivate such a deep spirituality, the actual practice of cultivating that spirituality often times barely gets off the ground, if it flies at all. People spend their lives either reading about it, without doing anything about it. Or they spend their energy just doing a whole bunch of things without any sense of meaning or understanding that leads to wisdom. Or they stand off to side, ignoring the nudge towards that deeper spirituality they feel in their hearts, hoping that it will just go away so that they can get back to whatever cushy life they’ve created for themselves.

Why Benedictine Spirituality? For one, because it’s so absolutely contra-celebrity. American Christians (specifically Evangelicals) tend towards the celebrity. We switch churches for the one with the new, rising star. Pastors write books, leave their churches, and go on book tours. Fame is the measure of truthfulness, aparantly. We flock to the bookstores to buy the latest book that we think will cure our spiritual apathy and delusion, rather than turning to ancient words of the Scripture, and the Psalms in particular, in order to get our bearings.

Benedictine spirituality is largely a rule of life comprised of the Scripture. It was written by a man who had so digested those ancient holy words that they couldn’t help but invade what he was writing to his monastic community. Scripture is the original rule, but Scripture is always accompanied by the lived experience of the people, which meant that it spoke to them personally. Also, in its day, the Benedictine Rule was not the hot new answer to all of our questions. Benedict stands in history as one of the great consolidators of monastic spirituality. He gathered the essentials and put them all in one place, leaving off to the side some of more arcane and, to be honest, just downright weird aspects of the monastic life (just read some of the sayings of the desert fathers). The Rule was utterly traditional, contrary to most writers today who want to sell us the latest new thing, some answer that they have discovered that no one else thought us. As a rule, the further back, and thus more inclusive one goes in the tradition, the better. New insights will be gained that will help us more forward, but not without a deep reading of the past. This is how you know who you can trust.

Okholm notes several reasons why Protestants might benefit from a Benedictine spirituality:

1. To their credit, Protestants are historically bent towards piety to begin with: daily devotions, regular worship. This is a good thing. Where a Benedictine Spirituality becomes immediately helpful is in regards to the Protestant (especially Evangelical) bent towards individualism. The monastic community (the cloister) recognizes the beautiful relationship between action and contemplation, community and solitude, engagement and withdrawal.

2. It forces Protestants to embrace a wider ecclesiology. Again, tending towards individualism, Protestants (especially Evangelicals) seem to write off too easily other parts of the Christian tradition. One way to know if you’re in the company of a safe and healthy pastor/speaker/theologian is to see how widely they read. Do they read only the books produced by Evangelical celebrities, kitsch pop-culture Christian fluff, or do they readi Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Anabaptist, Anglican, African, Latino folks as well. (Note: this doesn’t mean that they are experts in all of this, but that in some way, shape, and form, their imaginations are being influences in the widest possible way. Narrow influences are an indication of narrow imagination.)

3. Protestants are good at doctrine but bad at living. The rule is a way of putting the words of Scripture and theology reflection into practice. It really is about living good days.

4. The Protestant emphasis on Scripture blends nicely with the Benedictine Rule. As I said before, Scripture is the original rule, but Scripture is always accompanied by the lived experience of the people. The Rule arose out of the depths of a man who had so immersed himself in the Scripture that it couldn’t help but invade what he was writing to his community. 

5. If nothing else, Protestants tend to write off Benedictine Spirituality without really understanding it. We need at least become better acquainted with it because it’s a part of our past.

6. Protestants are typically instant kind of Christians: Instant access to God, instant answer to prayer. We don’t do well with waiting. Benedictine Spirituality sees Christian maturity as something one attains only through a disciplined way of life. It’s the image of the athlete in training. The monastics called it asceticism. While Protestants often look back on the moment of their conversion experience and wonder why things are not as good as it was back then, the monk sees life as a kind of training for the kingdom way of life. We grow and mature, like a tree, into the fullness of life with God in Christ.


Next time: Benedicts thoughts on learning how to be silent.

Friday, September 21, 2012

"I just want to get closer to God" - On Mission, Worship, and Knowing God

Perhaps the most difficult thing for Protestant Evangelicals (PE) to embrace is that knowledge of God is absolutely related to mission. To put it bluntly, we cannot know God unless we are on mission with God. The PE vernacular of having a personal relationship with Jesus is often practiced only in the form of an emotional high during the worship service. No emotion, no high, no knowledge of God, thus the PE state of disillusionment where one is always trying to get closer to God. It's utterly circular and ultimately defeating, I know from first hand experience.

If I may borrow the PE vernacular, if you want to get closer to God (to know God), then participate in God's mission. One of the most concise places to begin to understand what God's mission is in the world is found in Matthew 25, which talks about feeding the hungry, quenching the thirst of thirsty, practicing hospitality (especially to strangers), clothing the naked, tending the sick, and visiting the prisoner. A better, more comprehensive place to begin would be the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). This is just for starters...

If I may step back a bit from my original blunt statement that we can't know God unless we are on mission with God: I do believe that God speaks to those of us who are not on mission with Him, thus some kind of knowledge of God can be had. It's possible to know God is speaking to you and not to listen. In some sense you know God even if you refuse Him. My critique is for those PE's who claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ who measure the status of that relationship according to an emotional high.

In some ways this is a tried argument, but until it seems there's an obvious shift in the other direction then it's important to talk about. In my region of the world, a certain kind of PE is still highly operative, whereby people still barely connect what happens during the worship service with what happens during the week. Many still can't imagine how the movements of worship (the liturgy) have a certain kind of shape to them (or at least they should, which could beg the question of what's actually happening in the worship service at your church). James K. A. Smith recently address a part of this question in a article, except that he was talking the other side of the issue which said that we don't need to gather for worship because we worship simply by living in the world. In any case, the claim for the importance of the liturgy of worship must be made.

Worship is a "hot spot," as Smith says, where we are brought in close proximity to God/the ways of God/the story of God, etc. In such close proximity, we are drawn in, transformed, and sent back out into the world. That's the shape of worship. To put it another way, God breathes us into Himself (gathers us) and then breathes us back out (scatters us). When we are breathed in, we catch a vision of the kingdom through the movements of worship. We practice the kingdom in worship and then when we are breathed back out into the world, we live the kingdom life. It's not one way or the other. They work together. Yes, one knows God through the Eucharist but only because the Eucharist is not limited to merely the bread and cup in worship. Each meal we share with each other is a kind of Eucharist.

It may just be that if we want to know God, we should at least begin to share meals together (a good "strategy" for community groups, by the way, rather than simply doing studies together, although you'd be surprised how quickly the conversation around a table can become about God). It may just be that to know God, you share you clothes, your food, your water, your time, your energy, your resources, your skills, your law practice, your words, your thoughts, your home, your laws, your school...

We don't know what God's mission is unless He draws us into it and shows us the way (worship) and by showing us the way He shows us Himself.

What do you think?