Turn on any news outlet on your television screen and I guarantee you will be fed at least one negative campaign ad every twenty minutes. Every year I ask myself, why do politicians focus more energy on negative “mud-slinging” ads versus focusing on why they are the best candidate for the job? While the research varies on why to use this political strategy, in summary, “mud-slinging” works (in this context). But the question we ask ourselves is, is it right?
One of the most deadly weapons we carry is not holstered to our side, but instead is attached to our mouth. The power of the tongue holds great potential to lift people up. However, it can also be the deadliest incinerator to tear people down. There is a dopamine rush when we react, it is our innate humanness that seeks to destroy rather than to reconcile (just ask Cain and Abel-yikes!). The question is, what does it take to overcome our reflexes which in a reactive state will tear down instead work towards building up the kingdom of God?
The past couple weeks at Street Church we have been focusing on what it means to not just talk-the-talk, but also walk in the way of Christ, in everything we do (even after we leave each other on Sundays). We recognized the ways that our tongues have great power for good and evil. We lamented over the words that have been used against us, we also repented for our own angry reactions and slaying words in moments of rage and weakness. Together, we reflected on the ways we can show up in spaces with the power of peace versus hostility, which takes great discipline nurtured by the power of the Holy Spirit which dwells within each of us.
We all have this great power within us. How we choose to harness that power for good or for evil takes practice and sometimes a lot of slow breaths (which we practiced in worship). It takes a taming that must be guided by the mouth-bit of Christ who steers us away from reactionary flare ups and leads us towards the path of self-control and righteousness.
After the message, we had a great opportunity to reflect on the ways that God is working in the lives of our neighbors. One of our leaders, Minister “Bear,” who has been working on his diaconal skills for the church, gave a testimony on how God has helped him overcome homelessness and call him towards helping others in the community because “I’ve been there, I know what it’s like and I want to help you to know, it’s going to be okay.”
During our “prayers of the people,” many of our people shared that they were in the recovery community and shared how many years, months, and days they have been sober. “Twelve years,” one said; “five weeks,” said another; “ninety days,” said one neighbor. “I just finished my first 30 days, sober!” said one excited neighbor. It was a chorus of soldiers, battling together towards the fight against this disease, attempting to work towards self-control and finding an additional community which they could be vulnerable with and be held accountable to within Street Church.
This community has mighty power within it. The power to care for one another, to serve, to give back. You will notice on the picture of the altar above, that there is a plastic bag full of home-grown tomatoes in it. One of our neighbors, Mars, who has been leading efforts at our Micah community garden plot this summer, dropped those off during worship from the garden itself.
We celebrated this past week that since Street Church has been collecting an offering (less than a year) we have been able to collect close to $2000.00 that we can give back to the community and care for those in need. Glory to God! What a testament to the power within our small little community which has such big hearts to serve and to find ways to lift one another up, rather than tear one another down.
Together, we have the opportunity to show the world what it means to truly love one another. To accept each other for who we are and to hold one another accountable to who God called us to be. Instead of getting lost in the “mud-slinging,” we have the opportunity to “make a joyful noise” instead.
It was such a powerful moment to hear our newly (re)formed Street Choir meet after church on Sunday. Singing the “old time” hymns, I enjoyed hearing the laughing and joking while Dr. Chris Ryder led the group in song. It was a powerful testament to the community that is forming and was so incredibly life-giving! We had about five Micah neighbors and three students from Mary Washington stay back after church to join our newest endeavor: to reignite a community street ensemble of voices (open to our neighbors and the public) that we are calling Street Choir! Our hope is to provide lunch and transportation for folks who want to stay for the gathering, as well as provide an opportunity for more members of our community (both at street church and beyond) to get involved in our Street Church Ministry. We are singing outdoors, together, to prevent spread and practices are at 12:15 at 1915 Charles St. (open to the public). Please join us or let us know how you would like to come alongside this musical offering.
We also had the opportunity to host our first in-person volunteer appreciation event in some time since the pandemic began. Together we hosted a delicious picnic, listened to a wonderful local artist, Amy Cox, play some music for us, and we got to celebrate the wonderful things our volunteers have done in the wake of a challenging year. Our volunteers have stuck beside us and together we have risen to the occasion to serve our neighbors and care for them during an uncertain time in our history. We celebrate and thank you all for coming alongside this work and we couldn’t do any of this work without your time, resources, encouragement and support! Thank you!
The conversation during worship, the music, and the picnic on Sunday encouraged me greatly! In a world where negativity swarms around us, it can be easy to fall into the pit of dismal despair. However, we have named the truth and the light that is found in Christ. The light that came into this world and overcame darkness. Darkness has no power over this kind of light in the world and will never overcome it (John 1:5).
Therefore, let us be light! Instead of succumbing to all of the toxic talk around us, we can shout with praise above the noise. Shout that God is good (all the time!). Even in the circumstances that we may face, which are challenging and cause great suffering, we proclaim this truth in order to lift the burden off our shoulders. We, as a Body, recognize that we hold the holy power within us, everyday, to choose good over evil; peace over mud-slinging; mercy and justice over oppression. With God’s help, through community, we can overcome any adversity we may face; especially when we walk through it, together. We all hold that one, true, light and power within us, everyday.
Our neighbors have taught me that.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Grace and Peace,