My lifeworkandministry (no, it’s not a typo) increasingly calls me to a missional path. I am pushed, pulled, invited (probably should have run all of those together as well) to relocated to abandoned places, redistribute goods and services to those most in need and work on reconciliation of people, including myself, one to another and to God.
It never ceases to amaze the excuses people can give, and I include myself in the term people, for not relocating, redistributing, and reconciling. The three R’s seem simple enough, but like meditation, prove not so easy when you get down to actually doing it. The excuses are many, particularly when expressed by church communities confronted with relocation, redistribution and reconciliation as a way to be church.
“We have more important things to do.”
“It’s (wherever it is) too far away.”
“They (whoever they are) don’t really want/need our help.”
“They don’t respond to our invitations.”
“We’re too big/small/in too much of a mess of our own to do this.”
“It won’t help us grow.”
“What about our budget?”
The fact is relocating, redistributing and reconciling forces us to encounter ourselves others, including The Other in deep, up close, profound, and personal ways. It’s powerful and painful and transformative. We don’t need to go to Africa or Haiti or Harlem to relocate. Frequently, there is plenty of work to do in ourselves and with the people next door.
I’m at conference this week at the Texas Woman’s University and I noticed these compelling images all at the same intersection:
This abandoned house sits directly across the street from this University building:
Both are directly across the street from a church. Now, I don’t know anything particular about the abandoned building or it’s relationship to the University or the Church. For all I know the University bought the property and hasn’t developed it and both the University and the Church tried for years to assist the residents. My point is not to point fingers at the University or this congregation, but it’s a great visual for how close abandoned places are to places of prosperity.
There are abandoned places right next door to us, right across the street from us, but we frequently don’t see them because we look. Those abandoned places need goods and services and allies that go elsewhere where they really aren’t needed as much. The people who live near need to be reconciled to us and we to them and them to each other and us to each other and all of us the great mystery that I call God.
Before I could really begin on any of this work, I had to go to the abandoned places in my heart and work on redistributing and reconciling things there. If the abandoned places of the world and its empires seem too much for you at this time, begin with the abandoned places inside of you. You’ll be amazed at the places you end up next and how close to home some of them are.