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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Missional Week in Review, July 23-30, 2012

Well, it's been a rather hectic week here in Omaha...what did I hear and see over the weekend?

Had a rather interesting conversation with the Rev. Bruce Van Blair about the woman whom Jesus meets at a well. On Darkwood Brew last evening Rev. Van Blair and myself were talking about this story: in the middle of a dusty day Jesus meets a woman who engages him in conversation. This conversation takes place in Samaria, an area just northwest of Israel in the day, and reveals a lot about what Jesus seems to be about. Of course, it is a story, and one that has huge theological implications for us these days. According to Rev. Van Blair (and I think he is spot-on here), Jesus believes his call in life is to do the work of his father, and this work, at least according to this story, is to bring together all the people of the world.

There is much in this story that we did not get to talk about, but what we did talk about was pretty interesting...that is, God is not about separating people into various groups or factions--people do that, and what God does is to try and bring us all together. Again. (Presumably, we start out together, and work to distinguish ourselves.) Difference--however, does not seem to mean that we cannot all be part of God's plan...so to eradicate difference and distinction is not the point of our life together. The point rather seems to be how we can get together even if people choose to live differently that we do.

We have inherited from our Enlightment forebearers some kind of idea like "tolerance." And, as a political ideal, for people of relative homogeneity, tolerance works well for most people. (Some people, it seems, have trouble with this, but at least the "wars" have been battles in media and pulpits rather than about bombs and guns.) What we have discovered, especially since 9/11, is that "tolerance" is not enough when that homogeneity doesn't exist.

What I mean is this: there is not enough difference between your average Democrat or Republican to go to war over. There is relative homogeneity. (Do you really think it matters who is elected President? I mean, some money might shift around, and some people might be better off with one or another elected, but I'm still going to have to mow my grass, and love my children no matter who sits in the oval office.) I can "tolerate" anyone as President because most of my life doesn't radically change. But, now, as the world has shown itself to be more vast than we ever imagined...well, there are some real differences, real changes would have ot be made, and "tolerance" is not enough.

We have to learn to live with each other, to curb some desires, behaviors, and beliefs so that we can keep ourselves from killing each other. I think the role of women in society is a classic case where this will play itself out. As the USA, we do business with countries that do not believe women are capable of handling tough and difficult decisions in the public arena. Sarah Palin's competency aside, would you rather live in world where she cannot even pretend to be a legitimate politician? Would you feel better if you lived in a world where only certain men, born into a certain class and wealth, could make decisions for all of us? Yet, we have to live and work with countries where this is true. Women--just because they are women--are not allowed a voice in the public debate about anything, not even things related to women. Is this right? Should we care? Should we tolerate it? We tolerate it enough to make a few business deals, but the cracks of toleration are beginning to show through...

We need something else, and Jesus seems to suggest in his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well there is something else. The Spirit of God. Only when we understand and live with the Spirit of God in all of us, will we begin to live together in the peace and prosperity for which we long. In other words, we talk, engage, and live with each other not because we "tolerate" their choices, but rather because we cherish their Spirit. (Which is really God's Spirit in them.) And we see--a little bit maybe--what God is all about for us. And maybe women get to take off their burquas, and maybe other women don't wear their underwear in public, and maybe men respect women no matter what they wear...regardless it happens not because we tolerate difference, but rather because we cherish those who are different.

May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.

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