movements

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Christian faith is as much revolution as it is religion, and movement as much as it is sacrament. I cannot get beyond this truth. Sure, we live in a culture that would like to believe there is a real and distinct line that separates our faith from the politics we embrace, but reality disproves this impossible ideal.

See, not only is everything in this life spiritual, everything is political.

If you embrace the Christian faith, you embrace a movement that begins with a God that liberates a wayward creation. This God is, and has always been, long-suffering, compassionate, slow to anger, constantly willing to forgive and desiring that all should return to their rightful place as children of the Creator.

If you embrace the Christian faith, you embrace a movement that fundamentally shifted the way we think about societal division.

And if you embrace the Christian faith, you have at least heard of the revolutionary teaching that has called us away from judgment and towards love for everyone, including our enemies.

But if this past few years has taught us anything, it is that so many of us would prefer to go back to the “good old days”.  You know, the days when people knew where they stood. The days when Africans were ripped from their homes and families in order provide free labor in the New World. The days when a black man couldn’t look at a white woman without the threat of being lynched. The days when we had separate water fountains, bathrooms and schools. You know, back when America was a “Christian” nation.

Just this week, many of us saw a picture of a crowd of white nationalists that was reminiscent of KKK and lynch mob photos from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. You might feel the urge to dismiss this image as a fringe group of people that are out of their minds. But you would be wrong to do that. This is a movement my friends. It is a religion that embraces racial and ethnic identity as a prerequisite for participation. It is revolution that seeks to pull us back towards jealousy, envy, strife, hatred and division. Image-1-1

Is it a reactionary movement? Sure it is. But it’s also not reactionary in the very real sense that the spirit of this movement already existed in the hearts of many. It has simply been ignited in response to a movement that asks us to acknowledge that Black Lives Matter.

One movement is crying out to be noticed and affirmed as human beings. The other screams out, “I see you, but get back in your place!”

One movement has felt the sting of constant scapegoating. The other believes those who have been scapegoated in the past to be the source of all our problems today.

One movement is being told that their pain and suffering is imagined. The other is worried about upholding statues and flags that are a symbol of slavery and oppression. 

I ask you, in all sincerity…where do Christians find themselves in the midst of all this?

Truth is, most of us are just trying to get through this life. We’re trying to work hard, take care of our families and have some time left over to enjoy ourselves. Believe me, I understand. I’d love to turn down the volume on all the noise out there. But that’s not gonna happen. This has been going on for a very long time, and trying to avoid it or yelling at our friends/social media feeds isn’t going to make it go away.

You know, there was a movement that opposed the full inclusion of Gentile believers in Jesus. This is one of the main reasons we have Paul’s letters in the New Testament. Paul actually spends more time on this topic than anything else.

I suggest we evangelicals go back to our Scriptures in order to remember from where we’ve come. Let’s take a fresh look at letters like Galatians and Romans. Let’s read the Gospels in a way that compels us to listen and understand the struggle of those that have found themselves pushed to the margins over and over again.

May we put an end to beginning our sentences with “I’m not racist, but…”. May we be as loud, if not louder, in our condemnation of racism and bigotry as we are against riots that have been associated with Black Lives Matter protests. And pray that God would have mercy on us for refusing to have ears that hear and eyes that see.

I want to be part of the Jesus movement. In him, there is a New Creation that we actually get to experience here an now. It’s time, once again, that we believed in the Spirit’s power to lead us in the Way of our Messiah.

-dave-

 

church and money

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I am 23 days from signing an agreement with the Evangelical Covenant Church. This agreement will essentially mean that Brockton Covenant Church is no longer some rogue group of people with big hopes and dreams, but a legitimate entity backed by an international Christian denomination.

I’ve got to admit, it feels a bit strange.

For those of you who know me well, you’d likely not expect to find me actively advancing the cause of any institution, never mind a religious one. But alas, here I am…and to be honest, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

I’m excited to be surrounded by around 35 people that are driven to figure out what it means to be a peacemaker in the way of Jesus in our world today. Being around people that are seeking solutions, rather than just pointing out division, has made the divisiveness that is going on in our country and around the world seem much further away than it once did.

That’s all well and good, and it’s the very reason I signed up for this whole church planting business in the first place. But there is one thing I signed up for that I wasn’t excited about…fundraising. See, money and I have a complicated relationship. I don’t have the time or space to go into all of that, but let’s just say we haven’t always been friends.

I don’t want you to feel bad for me (well, maybe I do). I knew this day would come all along; the day when I would go from building a diverse team of people who care about being peacemakers in our city, to asking people that are not directly involved to support this endeavor.

That day is here.

The strange thing is, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as I thought it would.

Maybe it’s because it is no longer just Jen and I along with a group of friends that have come to embrace this vision…but a whole community of people that is growing in number and depth. Maybe it’s because I have spoken to so many who have experienced the same kind of frustrations with the way things are and are hopeful that something better is possible.

Maybe I’m actually convinced that God is calling us to this. I know…shocking!

Whatever the case may be, I’m asking for money to sustain our church. If you feel compelled to give, shoot me a message and I’ll let you know how. If you aren’t in a position to give, and/or just want to learn more about what we’re doing, please feel free to message me.

grace and peace my friends.

-dave-

I Must Confess…

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I haven’t always been this way.

There was a time in my life when I believed everything I was told. I listened, obeyed and followed all the “rules”.

There was a time when I believed that your problems were just that, YOUR problems…and to think that they were somehow the result of corrupt systems was just an exercise in scapegoating. There was a time when I believed having one black kid in my high school (not 20 miles from Boston) was normal. There was a time when I believed that color-blindness was the best approach to take when talking about people who are not white.

There was a time when I believed in the power of violence to achieve and preserve freedom.

There was a time when I thought Jesus came to forgive me for lying and swearing, leaving me paralyzed in fear of God’s wrath….at the same time never losing sleep over someone else’s suffering.

…..That was a time when I did not know anyone living in third-world poverty. That was a time when I had not listened to or been in relationship with people from the “inner city.” That was a time when I did not have friends who sleep in the woods.

But that time has come and gone.

At some point, I was confronted with a Messiah who suffered. I was confronted with a Messiah who called me to follow his Way, not just “accept him into my heart”. I was confronted with a Messiah who never gave me an excuse for holding onto power.

I have met Jesus in the faces of lonely, poor and oppressed people. They have helped me understand my privilege, yet have not cast me aside. The have caused the Scriptures come alive for me.

I know I’ve been written off by some who once called me “friend”. I’ve been called a heretic, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and a prophet for the “social gospel”.

But I know who I am. And I know the One who is forming me in this way.

I lament friendships lost, but I do not lament comfort lost.

I am  who I am today because I have faith in a God who chose suffering over comfort.

No, I haven’t always been this way…but I don’t ever want to go back.

 

 

R.I.P 2016

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2016 was…interesting.
 
I don’t know a lot of folks that would like to relive this one. The stories and events that mark this past year have left so many feeling dejected, even hopeless.
 
war. racial tensions. natural disasters. political upheaval. broken relationships. personal loss.
 
For better or worse, we have access to more information (true and false) than any point in history. On the newsfeed you are scrolling right now, in a manner of seconds, you can see the face of a child devastated by the carnage of war in Syria, while at the same time viewing a picture of a friend’s beautiful newborn baby.
 
We can watch a LIVE video of a man being shot in his own car and then move on to “heart” pictures from someone’s wedding day.
 
I can engage in a war of words with a friend who supports the political candidate I oppose, and then immediately offer a kind/funny/loving comment on another friend’s photo or video.
 
How are we supposed to deal with these conflicting images?
How can any of us remain emotionally stable in the midst of all this?
 
I don’t know if 2017 is going to be anymore uplifting or hope inducing than 2016. If we are allow our hope to be determined by our social media news feed, then I am not optimistic.
 
But, I believe there is a better way forward. I believe there is a better, more beautiful world available right here in our midst. The pain, war, racism, and all the rest isn’t going away. But I have a choice. I can let it depress and define me, or I can be part of making it better.
 
I want to be part of that better, more beautiful way. I want to be part of the Kingdom that brings healing, moves mountains, confronts injustice and offers hope.
 
Your Kingdom come
Your Way be made known
On earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

life update

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img_1737I haven’t posted on this blog in quite a while, but this post is more than a simple tweet or fb status update, so it seemed fitting for me to revisit this blog-o-mine.

As many of you know, I have been the associate pastor at Community Covenant Church (CCC) in East Bridgewater, MA for a little over two years now. Becoming a pastor came as a surprise not only to many of my friends, it was a bit of shock to the system for me as well. It came about at a time when my father was near the end of his life, and I was struggling to understand or find the hope that I once embraced so tightly. Somehow, it was during this time of uncertainty the Spirit saw fit to invite me into something new.

When I received an invitation to consider the position at CCC, I was in no way hoping to pursue pastoral work. In fact, I had dropped out of seminary 4 years prior due to internal belief conflicts. As you can imagine, I thought I had left the potential for church work in the rear view mirror. But when I spoke to an acquaintance at CCC about considering the position, a peace came over me that I can only describe as overwhelming. I knew it was right.

To be honest, it made no sense to me. I had become totally and completely compelled by city life, fully dismissing life in the suburbs. Working with the homeless communities in Brockton and Quincy overtook and consumed me in a way that I was convinced I would never be able to do any other kind of work. I’d certainly never become a pastor in the burbs. Or so I thought.

But this rural/suburban community awoke something within me that I didn’t realize I had lost: compassion for folks in the suburbs. I needed healing from my own pain and judgments, and this Christian community gave me just that. In that way, they gave me far more than I could have ever offered them.

It is with great sadness that I am nearing the end of my time at CCC, but I am headed toward something I had once dismissed with even more intensity than being a pastor in an established church; I am planting a church in Brockton, MA. 

Through a lengthy period of discernment, assessments and affirmations, Jen and I have agreed to pursue this uncertain venture. We have longed for an opportunity to share life with folks in a place like Brockton for many years now, and it appears that seeking the Kingdom has led us to this place at this time.

Why Brockton? Well, that’s a much longer conversation…but I will say this: whether we are successful in establishing a sustainable Christian community in this city or not (and I hope we are), we will, without a doubt, experience the grace of God in new and profound ways; we will form new relationships with folks from all sorts of ethnic, racial and socio-economic backgrounds; and in so doing, we will get a taste of what the Kingdom will be like when people from every nation, tribe and tongue comes together to worship our Creator together.

I will post updates as time goes on. Thank you all for your prayers and support!

 

dave

the symphony

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you’ve studied

you’ve prepared

you’ve practiced with your section

you’ve practiced alone

you’ve practiced some more

you eat, sleep, dream this piece of music

 

and the time has come to put it all into practice

to perform

 

you come together with all the other parts

tune your instrument

and anticipate the direction of the conductor

 

you wait

it begins

 

horns usher us into a triumphant beginning

strings draw us towards the beauty of their tethered artistry

cymbals, timpanis and bells heighten our awareness of something still to come

harps make aware their angelic pathway

and flutes deliver their soft, sweet melodies

 

all of the hours, mistakes and “aha!” moments come together to form

one remarkably unified piece of art,

held together by the swift, fluid direction of the conductor,

who knows each part as intimately as the next

and calls upon every individual player to wait, listen, blend, accent, rise, fall, breathe.

 

we’ve learned our parts

and read the music

but it is at the conductors feet we sit,

waiting for direction

when to slow down. speed up. get loud. be quiet. wait our turn.

it is the conductor who brings us together

to put into practice all that we’ve learned

and to move forward together

as one

 

when we meet God in the flesh

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One of the exciting parts of my new job is that I was given the privilege of offering a meditation during our town’s ecumenical service tonight in order to celebrate the beginning of Advent. In the middle of pain, disillusionment and public outcry against injustice expressed across our country, I think it’s a good time for us to remember the God who decided to embrace our frailty and suffering in order to set us free. Here is the text from my meditation this evening:

We come together this evening to reflect, experience and anticipate the coming of the Word of God made Flesh. In doing this, I would like to suggest that we will meet the God of Creation in a way that will change not only what we believe about God, but also who we become.

We first meet God in the flesh as the most vulnerable of all creatures, an infant. If, for just a moment, we stop to consider the obscene notion that not only would God choose to dwell among us AS one of us, but that God would relinquish control over God’s own self to a teenage mother and reluctant father on the run from home. A teenage mother and faithful husband-to-be who were insignificant even among their own people (and had become even more so due to the scandal of a pregnancy outside the bonds of marriage). Two insignificant humans, in an insignificant shelter meant for animals, placed within an insignificant corner of the Roman Empire…

When God visits Creation, it happens where and with whom we would least expect.

When we meet God in the flesh, as it was for his own family, it’s likely we would not recognize him as the savior of all humankind, never mind the Creator of the Universe. Certainly there were predictions and prophecies filled with hope for a Messiah that would come to save Israel. But like this?

When we meet God in the flesh we are hesitant to embrace the God who would choose humility and poverty over power and wealth in order to make us free. Because when we meet God in the flesh, we do so filled with all of our preconceived notions, not only about what God is like, but about holiness and keeping the code of our religion, as did religious folks in Jesus’ day. That God, upon visiting Creation, would not overwhelm us with power and might in order to make his presence known, is something we simply cannot imagine.

Thus we are faced with a moment of loss.

All the walls of law and religion we had built to protect and save ourselves come crashing down. We are no longer safe from the God who would scandalously become frail, weak, human.

Therefore, when we meet God in the flesh, we are forced to change our minds, our hearts and our expectations.

Meeting God in the flesh confronts us with the God who comes to the earth he made, to begin to set things right. In so doing, power is taken away from those who have abused it and is instead given to children. We meet the God who not only promises us that we will gain life by losing it, but the one who exemplifies self-sacrificial love in a human body.

When we meet God in the flesh, we find his heart in the places and faces of people who have been forgotten. We discover him in solidarity with prisoners and on the faces of orphans and widows, even all kinds of dirty rotten sinners…

And we ourselves become enabled to see God’s image resting securely upon each and every person we meet.

When we meet God in the Flesh we discover that our definitions of family cannot compare to the kinship we experience with all those who have come to know and do the will of God. Lines of blood, race, gender and nationality are shattered in the light of our embrace of brothers and sisters across all man-made borders.

Meeting God in the flesh means we can no longer make assumptions about who God would have us associate with or whether it is right to “do good”at all times. The God we meet in Jesus the Christ, calls us to act, and to do so with love in every situation.

When we meet God in the flesh we are surprised to find that doubt becomes far safer than belief. Because when we trust and follow this God in the flesh, we are called to people and places that might just make us a little uncomfortable.

When we come face to face with our suffering Lord and Savior, we are confronted with the darkness that lies within our hearts. But we begin to realize that even though we are dressed in rags, he sees us as beautiful, adorned in the finest clothing, and he calls us to see each other in the same light.

During this season of light, may we reflect the beautiful and piercing light we’ve received in such a way that the darkness from inside and out can have no hiding place.