Date: May 30, 2021
Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8
A few weeks ago, I sat down to consider what issues/facets of our life together at St. John’s were of most importance to me right now. I named 10 things. Mary Ann put each in a colored bubble, like balloon, and attached them to a middle bubble which made the 11th.
This whole idea was just a way for me to keep in front of me a sense of direction. An earlier series I did in January was “What kind of people should we be?” This time I am talking more about what I think our direction should be.
If any of these 11 things can be a shared vision, that is the only way there is any power in it, so I want to talk to you in the next few weeks about those 11 things starting with the center balloon this morning.
For me, that center focal point – the centering agenda – for St. Johns needs to be the fine tuning of being and becoming the Beloved Community. Now, I know I’ve been talking about this for almost 3 years now, but I believe we need to continue to refine it, remind ourselves, and become better at it. It is that important!
In a way, just naming “Beloved Community” as the ideal we intend to work toward seems like a pipe dream – a Pollyanna, unrealistic pie-in-the-sky thing. Maybe you think it is unreachable. Perhaps it is like that part of the Lord’s prayer: “thy kingdom come on earth like it is in heaven.” So, shall we throw out the ideal because it is beyond what is fully attainable? Should we then replace our vision with something like a Semi-Beloved Community because it is more reachable? No, I don’t think so. The benefits of investing in deepening our closeness are many:
● It was the way of Jesus to transform the world
● It is sorely needed in our divided and divisive culture
● Isolation is deadly and incredibly painful.
● Spiritual growth depends on it. We don’t grow without it.
So, I believe it is our privilege and responsibility to keep Beloved Community as the center post of what we do at St. John’s. Let’s keep that vision fully intact and regularly in front of us knowing full well that we are human and fallible and just like the ideal of becoming like Jesus, it is only partially attainable.
But with Beloved Community in our sights, let’s put our day-to-day focus on what we can do to get just a little closer to the ideal! In other words, more concrete attention on PROCESS and a little less worry about PERFECTION!
If we focus on PERFECTION, one of two things will happen: 1) We will feel guilty because we can’t make it! Jesus said in John: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. I’ll never pull that off! I’m a failure and a disappointment to Jesus. That guilt can disable you. 2) We will play the blame game and begin to figure out who is responsible for keeping our community from becoming less than “beloved.”
There’s just not much future in either of those things. What’s the alternative, then?
FOCUSING ON THE PROCESS!
The only part of the process within our control is our part. One of the reasons why the political situation and the pandemic have been so destructive and debilitating is that we are constantly confronted with the huge issues that overwhelm us when all we can do is OUR PART, no matter how small that seems. And that’s all we’re required to do!
And there is plenty for us to do when we accept the challenge of becoming BELOVED COMMUNITY. Here’s a partial list
- When there is a broken relationship between us and another, we are seldom exempt from taking the initiative to fix it! Our pride is less important than healing.
- We are called to forgiveness. Yes, even when the other does not deserve it. When has God forgiven you when you deserved to be forgiven?
- We are called to love the unlovable because we are authorized to tap into the unlimited grace of God. There are no unlovables in God’s economy.
- We are called to love when we feel we have not been loved adequately. That is the example of Jesus and it is the only way to move a world from hatred, alienation, and isolation.
You had better believe it! Building Beloved Community is not for wimps! Peace-making is not for wimps! It will take every ounce of courage and loyalty to the model Jesus set before us to move our world even one degree toward Beloved Community! Funny thing about that – we can do that enormous task better if we do it together. It is a huge but rewarding task. We can keep the vision of Beloved Community in our sights without becoming obsessed with perfection and watch the slow, steady progress toward becoming what we are called to be.
A visitor, passing a construction site, noticed 3 men chipping at heavy stones, hour after hour, one little chip at a time, in the heat of the day and the visitor was almost speechless noticing how hard they were working and how slow the progress. He said to the first stone worker: “What are you doing.?” He answered “I’m a stone mason. I’m chipping stones.” The second worker – same question: “I come here every day and put in my hours so that at the end of the week, I can pick up my check and go home.” The third worker – same question: “My friend, I work at this day after day and wear myself to the bone because I am building a cathedral. That’s why I do this.”
You see the Beloved Community is our Cathedral. Keep it in mind. Keep the vision in front of you when others lose sight of the goal, when you are wounded and unfairly treated, when you are falsely accused, when things don’t go your way. Do that, because Jesus did it before you and because YOU ARE BUILDING A CATHEDRAL.