My family and I have entered into a new season and like most transitions there is discomfort opportunity for growth.  After my serving as an elder in our church  for two years we’ve taken a step back due to several intersecting experiences:  moving to a new city, new job, new focus in my studies, and new relationships to name a few.  I’ll come back to some of these relationships in a bit.

I’ve always believed in the importance of knowing the history of  the faith tradition to which we belong.  By having a grasp on the story of our faith communities we are better able to appreciate their beauty, and to question their presuppositions.  When we’re able to step out of our particular ecclesiastical stream and survey the full landscape we are much more likely to have  a gracious demeanor towards those who swim in other streams.  This has a way of challenging our own judgmental moods and prejudices while simultaneously stirring our hearts towards humble gratitude for the people in which God has providentially placed us.

Since this season has presented itself I’ve implemented something I’ve wanted to do for some time and that is to interact with and visit various churches outside of my own ecclesiastical stream.  My aim is to visit and network with churches of different stripes in order to experience what the Spirit is doing here as well as explore some questions I have on the ecumenical movement… is unity in the Body simply a pipe dream or can it take on a visible manifestation to the world and to this city?  

One of the great people I’ve had the privilege of meeting this past year is author, professor and minister John H. Armstrong.  His recent book “Your Church is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission is Vital to the Future of the Church” has been a great catalyst for me to test what he calls “ecumenical mission.”  The vision towards unity in the Body will require pew fillers from all traditions to get out, engage in conversation and pursue friendship.  (Thanks for the strong nudge John!)

Lesslie Newbigin said that “The business of the church is to tell and embody a story.”  How are we doing at telling and embodying this story?  Is there any overcoming our constant fragmenting over various titles and subplots?   I hope to meet more characters in this story and to rediscover my own place in the messy and diverse family we call the Body.

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(I began this post the week after the shooting in Newtown)

Eighth graders can be very perceptive.  Not  that they always are mind you, but they “can be.”  Or, at least the ones I teach.  We spoke this week rather candidly regarding the tragedy that occurred last week month in Newtown and I was pleasantly surprised by they way some of them are thinking through the matter.

Since we happen to have school in a…. well, school, we spoke about our own vulnerability to acts of violence.  This is a scary subject for anyone but like most fears this one seemed to dissipate somewhat by having an open and honest dialogue.  It is when our fears are brushed under the rug and we attempt to ignore them that they fester and morph into full on paranoia.

The truth is that what happened at Newtown could happen at any given school, or any other location where people gather, any given day.  So what are our options?  This is where a student showed his more perceptive side and replied, “we can choose to trust people rather than being afraid and looking at everyone as a threat.  We can’t live our life being afraid of everyone.”  Well said my young Jedi.

The act of violence that claimed the lives of 27 people in Newtown, like most national tragedies, has brought out the best and the worst in people.  While some of my friends disagree with me on this, I do think that to use this as a means to push a political agenda, whether for or against gun control, is to add abuse to the ones who are already suffering unimaginable grief.  To politicize their pain in order to manipulate the emotions of the electorate is unconscionable .

Of course this applies to the Christian divas of the world who care more that they have a relevant answer of certainty to this act of evil than they do for the people suffering.  After all, we have to have someone to blame.  Right?  If we don’t have someone to blame this tragedy on then we might actually get uncomfortable with the real laments and grief of real people.  God forbid that our hands and hearts should have to feel such weighty things!

We want easy answers.  There aren’t any.  We want security.  There isn’t any.  At least not the kind of answers and security we’re looking for.  One thing that came from our discussions was ‘what can we do now?’  What happened in Newtown could happen in any town.  There is a story about a baby born in a cold, smelly barn and this baby was born to peasants in an unimaginably hostile time.  To reflect on that story and all of its implications for this life is to grasp the only secure hope we have for a more peaceful future.  8th graders get it.  I don’t know why politicians cant.