a revelation I want to remember

One thing that has been a revelation to me recently, a surprise in the current difficult circumstances, is the opportunity to act in real, practical ways for the good of the community, while at the same time clearly (prophetically?) rejecting the path the community is choosing. This is something important, central to the Christian life, in my opinion. But very hard to actually do.

I see Jesus as the model for us. He so vigorously denounced the ways of his people at the time, the oppression of religious and state powers, the people's slavery to money and politics, their "little faith." And he avoided these ways himself, working completely outside the normal structures of his day. Needing neither money nor a political following to accomplish his purposes. Yet he did real good for the people of his community, and by this they could see that he really cared for them.

Often in the past I've gotten so frustrated by the parts of community life that I'm opposing (because I think they are not God's ways and are harmful for the community) that I can only withdraw. Hoping that it will be some kind of sign for others. But this approach does not communicate love very well, and people are more likely to feel simply rejected. It's just so hard, though, to continue to care amidst the pain, to continue to try to find ways to contribute while at the same time feeling so strongly that the current structures and practices must be rejected as un-Christlike. How could Jesus do it? How avoid getting overwhelmed by frustration and anger? How contribute practically and lovingly without becoming a cog in the machine that's grinding all of us? Do you have to be able to do miracles?

One recent insight, discovered in a moment of deep and barren emptiness, was that it's okay if our love seems to dry up in the frustration and anger. This will pass. The truth is that love—real selfless, Godly love—does not come from me anyway. God is the source. So I can count on that love, God's love, being there when I need it later. My heart might be wrung dry at the moment, but God holds a great and fathomless love always ready to provide the energy and warmth needed to do good to my neighbor when it is needed.

Another help has been the deepening of my faith in the reality of the body of Christ. No matter what the structure of the society or church around me, no matter what the ingrained faults or weight of oppression, the body of Christ exists whole and perfect even there. So I can always act in accordance with the nature of the body (which is the nature of Jesus) and expect the strength and coordination of the body to be there, supporting me. Sometimes this support can even come from the very same people who are also most central to the community's problems. God can and does use anyone.

A specific way I've seen this work out here so far: The maintenance meeting I helped coordinate went very well. And little coordinating was actually needed, the people we have (and the help they freely offered) fit quite easily with the specific practical needs we currently have. A critical need was quickly answered, and many were relieved and grateful. And this all happened completely outside the complex and long-running community reorganizing meetings (which I'm avoiding and have spoken out against). Contrasting these two meetings seemed to me to show the difference between the complex and compromising maneuverings of human politics and the simplicity of submission to the body of Christ.

I've also been encouraged to expand this asking/giving model beyond maintenance to the other various gifts in the body. (This came out of the love I was having trouble finding in myself.) I've decided to step down from leading teaching times here, to avoid imposing my criticisms (hopefully prophetic criticisms) on others who disagree. But I'm planning to use my last Sunday teaching time, on Epiphany, to have us offer our gifts to each other, our abilities and interests that might be of service to one another. Things like counseling or reconciling skills, willingness to teach or offer hospitality, etc. It will probably just serve to inform us of what everyone is willing to offer, and also help us think about what we want to offer. And it may help meet specific communal or individual needs. But the biggest gift might be opening our eyes a little more to the reality and goodness of the body of Christ all around us. A structure we don't need to build. With a mission and purpose we don't need to invent. And a Head that is not any of us.