Community Miraculous

Celebration, Bush Street, Joaquin Vasquez, center, standing circa 1937
https://www.oceansidechamber.com/oceanside-blog/history-of-oceansides-eastside-neighborhood

For a church to be decentralized and not held up as a “pastoral church” (where the leaders “do” everything), there must be a radical discipleship that sees the necessity to live in/for/through community. There is no other way to get past Jesus telling his disciples to love one another and in so doing, others will see the love of Jesus enacted.

But this requires a regular rhythm of mutual submission, one to another. A submission of time, energy, talents, grace, compassion, and fellowship. The more we focus on intentional discipleship as a means to birth a church and see the kingdom of God enacted, the more I’m convinced that it will be a decentralized church that is not waiting for its leader to do something. It sees itself as a priesthood of all believers.

But it requires time spent with one another in prayer and fellowship. This is a hard thing in our culture, but a worthy truth to live into.

To have a gathering of a people who love Jesus and proclaim Him as Lord means that we have given our lives over to Father/Son/Spirit and to one another is service to the King. To see a church formed out of nothing requires a number of people to say YES to a vision of mutual submission of love, generosity, and hospitality.

A new church community is birthed because the Spirit of God is prompting a group of people to enact God’s mission in their sphere of life and influence. The Gospel needs to be proclaimed to a people who may not know the God of liberation, healing, and wholeness. This happens in and through a people called by God to be a witness and sent out into their neighbhorhoods, workplaces, areas of interest, and community.

The miracle of community is Jesus shaping and forming a people who are equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit. It takes the triune God to make such a thing happen.

trinity quote

“God’s mystery is more than a revealed truth; it is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit entering into creation, sharing its dark side, ransoming it from rebellion of sin and integrating it in eternal communion.”

Leonardo Boff, Trinity and Society (p.160)

Church Planting #2 – Mentoring Latino Young Men

In the few months that I’ve started planting (the time I’m setting aside from this is focused on building relationships), I’ve tried to stay focused on listening to what some of the needs are in the community. One main theme I continue to hear is mentoring young male latinos (middle school, high school).

I met with an executive director, principal, program director (boys and girls club), and a few people of peace from the city. Each one shared a need to reach young male latinos.

One executive director asked me point blank: “where are the male latino leaders in Oceanside? Who is pushing back and speaking out for latinos to succeed?” I felt chills go down my spine.

I’m not sure where they are. If they’re not outspoken or visible, my hope is that we’re busy taking care of our families, going to school, and working hard.

I have been praying and asking God to help me figure out how this startup church plant can get involved, how I can serve and help be a mentor to young latinos.

I’ve been invited to participate in a leadership forum to discuss best practices and opportunities to mentor. I was not expecting this when I said yes to planting. But this part of listening to the pain and needs of a city.

Church Planting #1

My evening readings: source

Church planting is stretching me in good ways. Mostly, I feel like my commitment to Jesus is deepening.

Why am I planting?! I really love Oceanside! I think Jesus loves it way more than me! I want to see a church that mirrors this multi-ethnic and diverse area. My hope is that people who have never experienced the Gospel have this “AHA-MOMENT” where they realize there’s hope!

Lesson 1 that I’ve learned: this is going to take a while. Building relationships of trust and safety don’t happen overnight. But I’ve enjoyed this process.

Lesson 2: learn from others who have planted and are great leaders/pastors. I’m trying to reach out to all the people in my network for tips, support, and prayer.

Lesson 3: pray a lot!!! Christ is the chief cornerstone of His church. It’s the church of Christ, nothing else.

I’d love to hang with you in Oceanside! Let’s get some coffee at Banana Dang! 🙂 Please keep praying! 🙂

the Holy Spirit and the Church

So here’s a little diddy:

“It is impossible to stress too strongly that the beginning of mission is not an action of ours, but the presence of a new reality, the presence of the Spirit in power.”

– Lesslie Newbigin

Goheen, Michael W.. The Church and Its Vocation: Lesslie Newbigin’s Missionary Ecclesiology (p. 58). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

God’s mission in Oceanside is not my idea.
God’s redemptive and reconciling efforts purpose in Oceanside is not my idea.
God’s desire to heal, restore, and liberate is not my idea.

I mean, of course I long for these things.
But they didn’t originate with me.

Rather, as we yield to and trust the Holy Spirit, we are joining the Triune God in His redemptive purposes.

Planting in Oceanside is about listening to the Spirit and joining in on what Jesus has ushered in through His death/burial/resurrection/ascension/pentecost
(lots of slashes…I’m influenced by Brooklyn 99…if you don’t get it, watch the show!). 🙂

As a church, we are bearing witness to how the Spirit is giving new life. The Church is bearing witness to what where this story is headed: all of creation renewed and restored. The Spirit is at work, through the church, in enacting this new reality.

So we pray:

Father/Son/Spirit:

May we be filled by your Spirit to be a witness of this new reality: the Good News that you are healing, redeeming, and renewing creation for your purposes. May we bear witness to your love for the City of Oceanside.

Amen

Spiritual Awakenings

For a long time, I wanted to be admired and liked, so much that I didn’t know who I really was. As I get into my 40s, I have felt more exposed and in touch with my failings. It’s felt raw and overwhelming at times.

But I’m grateful for a spouse and friends who remind me of who I am. They’ve been a presence of encouragement throughout my inner struggles to shed false identities and claim belovedness.

There’s more to come. There’s more I’d love to accomplish. But I’m grateful that if I don’t hit my personal goals, I’m loved.

During Holy Week, I long to know that my false self doesn’t inhibit God’s grace and compassion towards me. I long to know this new reality that Jesus offers through death and resurrection.

Healing from Loss

During a grief counseling visit, a family member of the deceased shared some wisdom with me. They said, “if I’m sad, I allow myself to be sad. If I’m mad, I allow myself to be mad. And if I cry, I allow myself to cry.”

Losing a loved one breaks the heart. There is no way to explain the amount of suffering and pain some may feel. But there is hope. Like grief, hope also comes in waves. The heart does heal. Memories give life. And we learn to live again.

God’s promises to heal our broken hearts is seen in the following story…

My friend recently wrote this beautiful depiction of how healing and hope have visited his heart. With his permission, I’m sharing it for all my friends and people I serve who are currently in the healing process:

Yesterday morning I received a text message from [my wife] asking if I was ok… I was totally confused and so I asked her why she was asking if I was ok. She then reminded me that it was the anniversary of my my dads going on with the Lord.

You know that for the first time since his passing I actually felt PEACE. It is a sign that healing has taken root in my life.

Of course I remembered him on Friday when I heard of the loss of a childhood friend and I began to feel the pains again of the moment I saw him take his last breath but… yesterday… when I was reminded of his passing… I actually had a day free of tears but then just smiled and thanked God for giving me peace at last.

Some people heal faster than others and remember to give those in their process plenty of love and support.

Healing False Images of God

They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+6&version=NIV;MSG

I once heard someone say that the moment you ask “why”, you’re a theologian. And we all ask why, which means we all have some kind of working image of God.

The Christian faith says Christ Jesus is the full revelation of God. God incarnate. Emmanuel, God with us. For 3.5 years, Jesus is near and revealing Himself. Most don’t get who He is. His 11 disciples (one of them betrays him) don’t get Him completely.

We’re constantly imposing our image of ourselves onto God.
“Isn’t he the son of Joseph?”
“Jesus can’t be the bread of life!”
“We grew up with him, in Nazareth. We know His parents!”

Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t react to our images of Him. He is “self-differentiated” enough to be who He is: King of kings and Lord of lords. Our idolatrous impositions don’t move him.

Yet we are to pray for a truth based image of God that rightly sees Him as King and Lord, aligning our lives to His purposes and goodness. Jesus is admonishing the pharisees to see Him for who He really is. This will take some self-reflection on their part.

Our prayer today is that we would be people who allow God to be God, imaging Him for the King and Lord that He is.

Mystery Reveals My Heart

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

In Christian tradition, one great claim and aim is to be made in the image of God. This means to experience a transformation such that we become who we have always been: children of God who imitate the One who creates and loves. Orthodox theologians call this theosis: the process of becoming one with God.

In this union with Christ, we become as He is. “Christ becomes like us (incarnation) that we might become like him (theosis).”

My assertion is that this process of theosis most happens in mystery and suffering. Moses becomes a holy person through his own desert experience after leaving everything he knows: Egyptian living, customs, and rites. His Egyptian identity is shattered when he learns of his Hebrew roots. This crisis of identity leads him to act in ways contrary to God-like character, shifting him into the desert for 40 years. He enters a mystery, a great unknown.

Jesus enacts the Christ identity most on the cross when He takes on sin and death, trusting that the Father is not limited by death. Since Christ is the ultimate icon of theosis, we might dismiss the example and say, “Well, this is Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” and be done with the story. But incarnation and theosis are claiming that we too will go through our own process of desert/cross/mystery.

I’m in a season of mystery and am handling more like Moses, pre-desert. I’m more like Peter who is sold out and convinced one moment, but then betrays Jesus the next.

To be in a season of mystery and the great unknown shake my core of trust, destabilizes my devotion to Christ, and causes a feeling petulance. How’s that for someone who claims to trust and follow God?!

The word mystery is about hiddenness and is closely related to mystic. To be a mystic requires a self-surrender (a kenosis…self-emptying) to the Great Mystery. I don’t know what this all means, but I’m comforted by the reality not all of life is explained away in three easy steps to success.

It brings my comfort to know that I am called to surrender to Mystery and be shaped by God to be like him in all things. During this lenten season, life feels dark, foggy, and cloudy. There are a few unknown variables in my life that are driving me crazy. I can’t control them or make them go away. I’ve been angry and irritable, much like Moses and Peter. The mystery of circumstances has revealed my childish and immature response. Mystery has revealed my heart…and it’s not pretty.

Last night during a worship time at our church, Christina broke script and sang a song that was not our list. I don’t remember the lyrics, mostly because I was confronted with a sense of the Holy. I put my drumsticks down, stood up, palms up. I was frozen and paralyzed in what felt like God’s focused presence. I remembered Isaiah 6:

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=isaiah%206&version=NIV

In that moment, all I could do is surrender to Mystery and the Holy. When I got up this morning, I had a deeper hope and one that had the courage to surrender to Mystery.

I don’t have answers to some of my perplexing questions. But I have a sense of God’s presence in the Mystery and a grace to surrender.