I spent a good part of my Saturday helping one of our neighbors get her apartment back in order after a long period of isolation. When I arrived, Chris who lives next door to her was outside sanding and prepping his door to match the others in the building where they live. “Let me know if I can help with anything,” he hollered as we carried bags of cleaning supplies into her apartment.
Later on, I had pulled one of the rugs out on the sidewalk to steam clean it. Another of our neighbors came walked up on me. Between the music and the volume of the carpet cleaner, neither one of us noticed the other until we were practically on top of each other. “I didn’t see you there,” she said. “Do you need any help?”
It wasn’t too long after that, that Wayne came walking by. I haven’t seen Wayne in a while because he’s in housing now and hasn’t been feeling well. We were excited to see each other and both stopped in our tracks to catch up for a few minutes. About that time, my husband pulled up with a table I have been meaning to have delivered to the woman I was helping. Wayne jumped to it, “Man, can I help you with that,” he said. Rushing over to help move the table into the house.
Before I left, the woman I spent had my day helping was in such better spirits knowing the improved condition of her apartment. “You’ve worked so hard to help me,” she said as I was leaving. “Can I help you with anything?”
Now, please know that I do not make a habit of loving my neighbor because I expect anything in return. But after that small window of experiencing so many offers from our neighbors to become part of loving others, I couldn’t help but be proud of the culture and community that we are building.
Chelsea, brave soul that she is, left me in charge of Street Church this weekend. Something about graduating from Seminary and all. Please drop her a note of congratulations if you get a chance. She has worked so hard, especially this last year as she has taken on Micah and her final year of classes, in the midst of a pandemic none the less!
Thankfully, she left me with an amazing team of leaders who have been increasingly coming alongside our neighbors in making Street Church happen every week. With Lew (Christ Lutheran) and Rachel as greeters, Tim (New Hope UMC) and our neighbors who showed up early to set up, Carol and Gerry (Fredericksburg UMC) working with Caitlin and Marvin in the kitchen, Rick (Common Ground) driving the bus with Jimmy Joe as navigator, all I really had to do was show up and say something important. We are truly blessed to be among to bear witness to a community that is so eager to share their gifts and respond anywhere that help is needed.
My Saturday experience and Sundays culmination of talents was really good inspiration for a reflection on John 17:6-19, the prayer Jesus prays to God on his disciples behalf as he is getting ready to ascend into heaven. While Christ will no longer be physically present with the disciples, the mission continues. And not just for those who remained immediately after the crucifixion, but all those who come to be part of the body of Christ revealed in how we live and tell the story to others.
I hear Christ saying three distinct things in the John 17 prayer.
1. You gave them to me. God and the world are now intertwined as one because of Christ’s death and resurrection.
2. The world did not believe me, and it is not likely to believe those who follow me.
3. Protect those who follow me, “so that we they may be one, as [Jesus and God] are one”
Indirectly, Christ’s prayer reminds me of the parable of the sower. Seeds were scattered rocky ground, along the path, among the thorns and in the good soil. When that seed is planted it intertwines with the earth and produces something new. It is harder for a seed to grow in the thorns and among the rocks; they don’t last as long and some seeds don’t make it. But that doesn’t mean we can eliminate the rocks, the thorns and so forth. They are a part of our world. But if God is like the seed and we are the soil that receives God, that binding process between seed and soil is exactly what you see when Christ came into our world. Christ was really, really good soil for God to dwell in. He bore fruit and multiplied. Then he planted God’s vision (seeds) in 12 other people, who also took it upon themselves to multiply again and again all the way down to you and me and our neighbors.
There is a reason God has laid it on the hearts of those of us involved in Street Church to lean into the mantra of “gather, sow, grow.” The gardening process has so much to say about God’s hope for the Micah Community. It is a vision that so many of our least cannot see for themselves. Trauma, loss, heartache and disability has often robbed them of believing there is anything beautiful or fruitful that they can offer the world. The tilling and weeding and fertilizing that happens through Street Church, however, is slowly but surely revealing that every last one of them is capable of being good soil. There is strength and protection in community, in a body of Christ, which prays often the Jesus prayer “that they may have Christ’s joy made complete in themselves.” That the birds, the thorns, the stay out of their way as they seek to spread more seeds. That they be watered well and have enough sunlight. That they too bear fruit and multiply, hopefully without the dangers Jesus faced.
As we closed yesterday, twelve of our neighbors joined me at the front as I offered an illustration of what it meant to continue the work of Christ. From the same flower pot that I had scattered seeds and talked of the unification between God and humanity, made known in the death and resurrection of Christ, I pulled a small flower for each who volunteered.
“Will you take these share it with others?” I asked them. “Will each of you take this little plant to someone you know and say, “Friend, I have been leaning the most incredible story about a man named Jesus. It changed my life and every Sunday I get together with other folks who feel the same way. Would you come be part of our community?”
The chatter of who they wanted to share it with ensued. The lady at the motel. The man at the convenience store. Rachel’s little boy Elijah later gave it to his grandma. I asked them to be the messengers, the disciples of Jesus Christ spreading more seeds from the powerful love that is growing in this community. warned them that their offer may not always be accepted. I told them I would worry for the care they would give to the task. They promised to cherish the little sapling and share it with others. Then we prayed together for God’s guidance and protection as they continued the work of Christ.
I hope you will pray too. Pray with us and for us, all of us at Street Church, as the confidence and voice of our least takes root and bursts through the soil of our community. I think its going to bear fruit like our community has never seen before.
Thanks be to God,