Tag Archives: hospitality

Let Us Go…

“…And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” (Isaiah 2:2,3)

In the prophet Isaiah’s depiction of the final Kingdom,  people are drawn to go there.  Not by force or coercion, but a desire that compels forward-moving action.

I guess it shouldn’t be any surprise because many people had the same experience with Jesus.  There was something about Jesus that inextricably drew people—from the religious leaders that were angry with him to people who you might think that it would be in their best interest to run away.

It’s easy to forget this when we Christians and churches become so focused on behavior modification, appearances, or legislating a religious morality that has little to do with inner-transformation.  Sometimes it seems that we feel we need to manipulate or trick people into the Kingdom: (“No, really, it’s not so bad.  And you get eternal life in the bargain!)

For months we have been going to another  nearby village to pick up people for church.  Lately, the adults have not been coming, but the kids still clamor to come. In a car stuffed with kids ages 3-10, my coworker was surprised to find that they wanted to pray on the way to church: For a father  to not go to jail, for another father to have strength in jail and then change his lifestyle when he came out.  And the list went on…

These kids can cause disruption in the church—they can be loud,  often unruly, and sometimes other members grumble at their ‘lack of culture.’ Yesterday, during the singing, they were loudly goofing around in the front row while I was trying to lead the music.

But I hope we are not a church that would put ‘good behavior’ over encouraging these children who are being drawn to God. Thankfully, during the service, the pastor quoted Jesus’ admonishment to his disciples to “Let the children come to me”  (As maybe a subtle reminder to the rest of the congregation).

“Let the children come…”   Jesus knew that children would want to be near him—his unconditional love, his gentleness, and kindness.  I have a feeling that more children would have been drawn to Jesus than adults—but unfortunately the gospels’ accounts rarely mention children.

Last week, as the kids were going out the door to go home, I put my hand on the shoulder of the oldest. He turned to me, startled, and I could see that he expected to be reprimanded.

“Come again!” I said in a stern voice, and then smiled.  His whole face lit up in delight, basking in the feeling of being wanted in a space other than just his home.

I drove them back to their village after church, and they insisted on singing worship songs the whole way back.  Off-key and with wrong words, they belted them out.

Perhaps for some people, an inaccurate picture of God results in fear, disgust, anger, and a general resistance about moving toward God.  That is why it is so significant to study people’s responses when they encountered Jesus.

How do we maintain a community of welcome and compassion?  A church where people will say, “Let us go there, that we might learn about God and walk in His paths?”

Perhaps by  being willing to constantly  have our understanding of God challenged, refined, sharpened, and expanded.

 

 

 

 

 

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Blessing is not about power

“God is in this place,” Skye, a vicar from Oxford, said to me after spending a couple of weeks being involved in Little Darda Church.

Sometimes, amidst the hard stories  and daily struggle for survival characteristic of our church members,  it is nice to be reminded of that from someone visiting from the outside.

“I have received blessing in my time here.”

Blessing—so often that word is used to describe a relationship FROM someone who has more power, resources, or possibilities TO someone who is poor, marginalized, and needy.

With a jolt, I am reminded that Little Darda Church is called to be a blessing to the larger Roma community, to the Croatian community, and to any other nations that happen to visit our small church on a given Sunday.

And, as mentioned in an earlier blog post, one never knows who will show up.  Đeno, whose vision has always been to have a ‘church for all people,’ rather than a strictly ‘Roma church’ mentioned that fact last Sunday.

“We are an international church,” he said in his introduction to the service. “Right now we have people in our service from America, England, Croatia, and The Netherlands.  This church is not just for us Roma.”

I think back to the first ‘Great Commission’ in God’s promise to Abraham.  “…I will bless you…and so you shall be a blessing…and in you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

God’s work and presence in the midst of the Little Darda Church is our blessing.  Sitting with the people over coffee in their homes and listening to their stories, my spirit has  experienced his presence in ways that are new to me. I try to be a blessing to the people by listening to their burdens, struggles, and heartaches.

But I realize I forgot the third part of the blessing.  No matter that sometimes we feel that we are taking one step forward and three steps back.  No matter our struggles as individuals and a church, the challenges we face in discipleship, our hopes for community transformation.

Although we are a community of new believers, we are called to be a blessing to others.  This must be our shared call.

Skye blessed us in many ways—using art as a means to facilitate connection and life-sharing among the women, preaching, and leading youth activities.  But her comment to me reminded me that my perspective has, somewhere along the way, slightly shifted away from my deeply held convictions regarding mission. IMG_1683

Blessing is a primary theme in mission—but it is not about the stronger blessing the weaker.  It is about experiencing the presence of God and offering that as a blessing to others with one hand even as your other hand is outstretched to receive blessing from someone else.

“God is in this place,” she reminded me.

Yes, yes, he is—and so all, from every nation,  are welcome to Little Darda Church.  I cannot promise the material comfort you might experience in an American megachurch, but I can promise you will be warmly accepted by this small community.