Join Me For A Discussion on Race and Socio-Economic Differences

22338937_10210656169862492_7932556835852492754_o

Sunday, October 15, 2017
6:30pm
Greentree Community Church
100 Kirkwood Place
Kirkwood, Missouri 63122


What are the hardest aspects of conversing about race and socio-economic status with those closest to you?

St Louis area friends: Join me for a thought-provoking, yet practical evening hosted by the Biblical Justice and Mercy Team of Greentree Community Church. My friend and colleague Sabrine Rhodes, a cultural responsiveness consultant, will also join me in leading this discussion.

You will be challenged and equipped to speak boldly into hard issues with those close to you. Whether you find yourself in conversations with family living under your roof, extended relatives, or close friends, this Gospel-centered discussion will move you toward self-examination and actively loving God by caring for and respecting all humans made in His image.

All are welcome. Come find your seat at the table and join the conversation.

Race, Culture, and the Church

(Happy to be writing over at the new blog of Greentree Community Church today. The original post is published there.)

paper-doll-family

Jesus’ human lineage teaches us that the unconditional love of God is limitless and without prejudice. – Tom Ricks

“Some of us in the 5th Grade Sunday School class think the new Greentree logo looks broken,” my eleven year-old daughter confessed as we walked out of church May 16.

We were walking to our car, and we were excited to dig in, branch out, and live it up. We could sense the enthusiasm of the Greentree staff that morning. Yes, after almost twenty years, God is still working at Greentree. And our leaders are responding to an ever-changing culture and community, seeking to be relevant within Saint Louis.

“It does look broken,” my husband agreed. “And that’s perfect, don’t you think? Brokenness is a theme here at Greentree. Really, it’s a theme of the Gospel. I’m glad we’re at a church that admits we’re broken and need a Savior.”

My mind went to my own interpretation of the logo and my love for the different shades of green displayed. Is God calling us to more? I wondered. Could He be challenging us to get comfortable with diversity within Greentree Community Church?

GreentreeMiniLogo

And I couldn’t ignore it — the brokenness and the cross, well, they were right there in the middle of diversity. I see it every time I look at the new logo. I can’t help it.

We serve a God who is in love with diversity. He created it. He decorated the earth with over 23,000 types of trees. We know there’s at least 15,000 species of fish in the sea and the list keeps growing. There’s countless variances in mountain ranges spanning the globe. Our Maker intentionally fashioned a dwelling place for people that bursts forth with variance in the natural world. And in the human race.

But it’s been quite a year here in Saint Louis, yes? Painful experiences untold for years are finally surfacing around dinner tables and locker rooms and office cubicles, and I hope, churches. Have we been too quiet?

Discussions on race and culture usually force us to dance to the rhythms between hurt and healing, resentment and forgiveness, misunderstanding and reconciliation. We’re at a point now where we have to choose our path. Are we going to ignore? Or are we going to walk toward deep self-reflection as it pertains to relationships and living in community? There are our neighbors, and our co-workers, and the family at the pool, and yes, even our relatives. Some of them look like us and some don’t. Sin has stained our country’s history and we’re still sorting through the fragments. It’s uncomfortable. It’s our reality. It’s necessary.

“Jesus’ human lineage teaches us that the unconditional love of God is limitless and without prejudice,” challenged Tom Ricks as we explored our spiritual family tree last Advent season. Our counter-cultural God — He woos me out of judgements and man-made religion.

Can you see our spiritual ancestors — the murderer, the adulterer, the prostitute, the forgotten — all in desperate need of a Rescuer? Can you see God choosing people with heaps of baggage? Can you see Him bringing together diverse people taught to hate and mistrust one another as He writes His Rescue Story for generations to come?

The Gospel message, well, it’s different than what we’ve sometimes made church out to be. The Gospel extends beyond masks of perfection, beyond man-made neighborhoods still segregated by race and class, beyond our enslavement to what others think of us. God intentionally wove people into His ancestry whose aches left them longing for the cross.

Are you aching, too? Join us then.

On Saturday, June 6, we’d love to have you at Greentree’s forum “Kirkwood, Race, and the Church”. We’ll gather at 6pm in the North Kirkwood Middle School cafeteria, 11287 Manchester Road, 63122. Together we’ll choose to not look away, avoid conversation, or isolate ourselves. Together we’ll simply listen. We don’t know what we don’t know. The panel will even include a few African Americans who’ve been asked to reveal their experiences of living in Kirkwood and Saint Louis. How can we better engage with those who have different cultural experiences? How can we live intentionally? We’re thankful for all the panelists who have graciously agreed to share their stories with us.

When You Want Your Life to Mean Something (Dr King’s Last Sermon)

Dr. Martin Luther King., with son Dexter, Atlanta, 1964
“… And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.

…By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant…” Martin Luther King, Jr., “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, 1968

This weekend I’ll watch King’s “I Have a Dream” until tears spill from my eyes. It happens almost every year.

There are his speaking skills and his commitment to nudge the world and his ability to get off his couch and do something. Justice and equity. Truth. I’ll celebrate progress with you, and I’ll weep with you, too, over how far we have to go.

We want to advocate and uncover and impact our generation just like King, right? We want our lives to matter, too. But this man’s identity was grounded in something deeper than being a change-agent. King embraced the messiness of being like his Redeemer. He focused his gaze on the Servant King who descended into the fragments, stripped Himself of glory, and started washing feet. 

While shouting equity he challenged his followers to whisper humility. So counter-cultural that Martin was… more counter-cultural than I ever realized.

While thousands were holding out their hands in hope, King challenged them to look beyond their oppression and bravely study their own hearts… is it even possible? This last sermon he preached would have touched us today because we all have an insatiable desire to be important. We all crave significance.

King dared them to live their lives differently. Can you abandon living beyond your means? he asked. Can you stop name-dropping? Can you resist the need to be known, the need so powerful it can change your personality? Yeah, he hit the big ones.

He must not have been a people-pleaser.

The ache is still here in the 21st century – the ache to be known and valued and recognized. I stand here today wondering how to navigate it all — making a difference, generating awareness, drawing attention, self-promotion. I’ve been on that downward spiral. Maybe you have, too.

Brokenness weaves the lie into our lives, distorting our definitions of greatness. Take it back, King shouts. Take back the God-given hunger to be great by loving others more than yourself. Be radical by humbling yourself. Do something with that drive that has nothing to do with yourself.

And I wonder about all the pages of King’s story we’ll never know… the chapters read only by his close friends and family before the world knew his name. I see him maybe changing his kids’ diapers… or frantically helping his wife tidy their home before guests arrived… or pushing a neighbor kid on the swing. Busy man he was. I can imagine most of his down time was ordinary just like mine. Or was it?

Without Prejudice

“Jesus’ human lineage teaches us that the unconditional love of God is limitless
and without prejudice.” Tom Ricks @gtccmo

nyorker

Next week my girl will play Rahab in a Christmas musical. I’m not kidding. Gone are the years of being an angel with a sparkly halo covering her white-blonde hair. Instead, my sweetie is Rahab, the prostitute.

Do you know her story? Take a look. Besides my Rescuer, Rahab just might be my new favorite nativity character…


Her wandering mind — a pathway to her aching heart.  In the daytime while trying to do regular life. At dusk while anticipating another job. In the night when her work seemed to last forever.

Rahab. The prostitute from Jericho. God’s choice to help His people redeem what was once theirs before slavery. “That woman” with an unprotected heart was about to play the role of protector.

(Bear with me, friend. This really is an Advent post.)

Who would have imagined it?! Our counter-cultural God. He woos me out of judgements and man-made religion.

She hears a knock and welcomes two spies from Shittim, the very town where God’s people began to “whore with pagans” years and years before being enslaved in Egypt.  Yes, Moses really did write those words. The Rescue is all the more beautiful when we get honest about our messiness. How absolutely mysterious Joshua chose two men from Shittim — the memory of Israel’s physical and spiritual harlotry — to recapture their hope. Recapture their Promised Land. Recapture their hearts. Again.

Rahab. She had the perfect job for this plan to unfold.  Two men entering her home looked rather commonplace in her doorway.  But her future of redemption and purpose was anything but ordinary.

“We have heard how the Eternal held back the Red Sea,” she admits, “so you could escape from Egypt on dry land … As soon as this news reached us, our hearts melted…  The Eternal One, your God, is truly God of the heavens above and the earth below.” Joshua 2:9-11 Aching for truth Rahab was.  Fashioned for something greater than man’s empty lust, her purpose found her.  Practically stumbled upon her doorstep.

Can you see the woman captured by shame? Can you see the spies — the former slaves — captured by consequences of their ancestor’s mistakes? Can you see the Maker choosing people with heaps of baggage? Can you see Him bringing together diverse people taught to hate and mistrust one another as He writes His Rescue Story for generations to come?

And what a radical ending… The scarlet cord used to lower the spies from her window served as her protection upon their return with an army. Joshua 5 & 6 The rescue tool she provided really saved her. She married an Israeli and bore a son named Boaz… a son who would later be known for his sacrifice and deep commitment and care for an immigrant, one of society’s outcasts.

What a proud mama she must have been! The one who had been given grace saw her adult son extending grace to a foreign outcast. Without prejudice.

It doesn’t get much better than that. But actually, it does…

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. Matthew 1:1-16

Yes, next week my daughter will be Rahab in a Christmas musical. You see, generations after Rahab taught her son, Boaz, to love without prejudice, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger. Jesus, the Immanuel, was from the line of Rahab. God With Us was from the human line of a scorned woman redeemed by grace.

The Gospel message, well, it’s different than what we’ve sometimes made church out to be. The Gospel extends beyond masks of perfection, beyond man-made communities still segregated by race and class, beyond our enslavement to what others think of us. God intentionally wove people into His ancestry whose aches led them to choices we hope our children never make.

When tempted to harshly judge others, challenges Darrin Patrick, remember that all of us violate our own convictions with embarrassing regularity. @darrinpatrick

Merry Christmas to you and yours. It feels different this year, doesn’t it? It’s almost as if you have choose to ignore or choose to engage in deep self-reflection.

Examining our own heart feels more like Good Friday and Easter rather than Advent. But the cross is here now, too. And really, it’s our only hope.

Limitless love. Without prejudice. I dare you. I dare me.

photo source

Choosing to Weep

nyc

It’s an interesting Advent season at best, as the call for justice and equity rises above the hope of a silent night. The voices, long unknown by many, have grown loud enough to spill over into unsuspecting homes this December.

Do you hear them? Do you see them?

Weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

The beauty of city streets donned in lights and holiday bliss serves as the backdrop for masses chanting and marching and looking anything but peaceful. The scene clashes over and over. NYC window displays. A Seasons Greetings banner spread over a Ferguson street.

Silent night. Holy night. All is not calm. And all is not bright.

And maybe the chanting hasn’t reached your neighborhood, but do you see the irony that’s all of our story?! We wrap ourselves in beauty this season when God chose to wrap Himself in fallen flesh. We illuminate our homes and garages with lights as He chose to descend into darkness. We spend and buy and party away when He chose to join a mortal family with nothing.

He descended among those oppressed by Roman rule. He saw the victims and fully embraced the Rescue Plan.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John 1:14

But there was more, so much more. Their captivity was greater and deeper than even they knew. He descended for those in spiritual oppression whose hearts were aching and longing during that forever Advent. But He descended here for the numb souls, too. He came for those who were never satisfied but didn’t know why. For those who couldn’t name their ache.

Some were captives of their own doing. Some were reaping consequences of their own sin. Some were bound by wounds inflicted from family and neighbors and the system and society at large.

He came to the mess. In fact, the mess was the reason He came. He came to the mess that couldn’t come to Him.

Maybe the chanting and the marching and ache for truth is more like the first Christmas than we’d like to think.

Israel’s call for justice. The heart’s cry to be rescued from a world we weren’t created for.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

And might we strike that balance, too? The balance between grace and truth? Truth and grace?

Weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

Do you hear the voices? Regardless of your interpretations on why there’s weeping, do see a nation suffering?

Give us the courage, Lord, to enter the uncomfortable. 

Come, oh come, Immanuel, and ransom captives… 

 

 

Photo source: Huffington Post