Well it has been six weeks gathering together as a Practice tribe. What a start to this holy experiment. All week I’ve found myself looking back and thinking through the journey and would love to share a few reflections. Here’s how I’d tell the story…
We began with our shared desire: We long to be a tribe who doesn’t just believe things about Jesus, but is willing to rearrange our lives to put his words into practice. In order for this to be true, we believe three things must be present at the end of our 18 month experiment: Vision, Practice, and Tribe.
[highlight color=”lightgrey”](1) Vision. We must begin with a ravishing view of the Kingdom of God. What did Jesus teach and invite us into? What does it look like for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven? We need to start with the Big Story.
(2) Practice. What are practical, concrete actions that help me align with God’s Kingdom among us? What are the disciplines and habits that I can choose to put me in the flow of Grace…so that God can do in me what I could never do otherwise?
(3) Tribe. We can’t do this alone. We need to walk and practice together.[/highlight]
We’ve always known that a weekly service couldn’t accomplish this on it’s own. A two-hour gathering is only 1.2% of our time and can’t compete with how we spend the rest of the week. But a service “in service” of a community practicing the way of Jesus could be quite powerful. So with this in mind, our Sunday night gathering has become very important to this journey.
Meeting most Sunday nights, 7-9pm, we have tried to turn the Willow chapel into a holy living room. Simple, reverent, and human. We set up the chairs in the round because we desire to become a community, and placed the Eucharist table in the very center of the room because Christ is the very center of everything. It’s simple, of course, but hopefully the space preached louder than any words.
The vibe of the gathering was similarly understated and simple. We tried to do the minimal amount of programming required to create the most amount of Holy Space, and have been continuously amazed by how God met us in it.
Week 1: The Invitation. On the first night, after an opening liturgy and a little bit of my story, Mindy guided us through a lectio divina engagement with our central text…
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me
and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me
and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
It was profoundly moving to hear God speak to us through this powerful text…even in our first gathering. And in many ways, this invitation from Jesus set the trajectory for our whole journey. O please, Jesus Christ, teach us Your unforced rhythms of Grace. (Week one practice)
Week 2: The Kingdom of God. To learn these rhythms of Grace, we began with Jesus’ central message: “The Kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news!” But what does this mean? My friend Doug Pagitt brought a compelling and provocative perspective that raised more questions than it answered, and launched us into a week of wrestling, searching, and finding. We learned that God’s Kingdom is most often found in the daily interaction with “normal” life. O God, please give us eyes to see Your Kingdom everywhere. (Week 2 practice)
Week 3: Spiritual Formation. Beginning to see God’s Kingdom all around us, we then asked: How do we become people who can join this Kingdom with our hands and feet? How do we become transformed into Christlikeness? Mindy brilliantly taught about this process and gave us the practice of the open chair. So much of The Practice is built on this teaching: Transformation is only possible through God’s Grace, and yet we have a critical role to play. O God of the Universe, please show us the small things we can do to align with Your immense power. (Week 3 practice)
Week 4: Forgiveness. For our fourth week, we said, “Alright, let’s bring it all together. Let’s dive into one of Jesus’ deep teachings about the Kingdom and see if, by Grace, we can begin to put his words into practice”. Since nearly 2/3 of Jesus’ teachings were directly or indirectly about forgiveness, we prayerfully entered into the difficult “parable of the unmerciful servant” from Matthew 18 and asked God to help us forgive from our hearts. This was so hard. Those seven days of practice were heavy, beautiful, difficult, and a taste of freedom for many of us…even as we know the journey will be long. Loving God, please forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. (Notes and Week 4 practice)
Week 5: Serving. With Jesus’ teaching “those who have been forgiven much, love much” still in our ears, we looked at Luke 4:16-21 where Jesus launched his ministry by reading: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Isaiah 61)” To join Jesus and align with God’s Kingdom is to do the things He’s already doing: bringing good news to the poor, sight to the blind, etc… and so we humbly said YES! Together, our little tribe spent the rest of the night packing seeds for families in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and El Salvador. O God, please make us instruments of Your peace. (Week 5 practice)
Week 6: Gratitude and Longing. The final week was probably my favorite gathering of them all. After an opening liturgy focused on the original Palm Sunday, we had a bit of a “holy family meeting” focused on two questions: First: Where are you experiencing the unforced rhythms of Grace in your life? We spent time in silent reflection, small group conversation, and then shared our stories of gratitude…all shouting “Thanks be to God!” Second: Where are you NOT experiencing this Grace, and deeply long for more? After honestly bringing these longings to God in solitude and groups, many courageously shared with the community, and we all joined them in solidarity with “Lord, have mercy.” Finally, we brought our hearts of gratitude and longing to the communion table and reaffirmed that Christ is the Center of it all. Almighty God, please help us align our entire lives to Your Kingdom and learn to live the unforced rhythms of Grace. Thank You for the greatest invitation in history. We gladly say yes! Amen. (Week 6 practice)
There is so much more to say…but this is already a novel of a blog post. However, we’re excited to share more stories, questions, and reflections very soon.
We’re starting the next journey together this Sunday, April 27th. Please join us!
It’s an honor and joy to be on this adventure with you all. Grace and peace…