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A Taste of Heaven on Earth

August 04, 2014

This past weekend, our church family had the wonderful gift of hosting Caminemos Juntos, a global gathering of Latino ACNA leaders. About 200 people attended the conference, traveling from all over the United States as well as Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Chile. Church of the Resurrection folks really stepped up. In all, 19 host families provided hospitality for over 30 people. A special thanks to Diana Soerens for her tireless efforts to match host families with conference attendees. (She even found a host family in Mexico City for a Chilean band member who got hung up by Mexican immigration officials.) On Sunday, we had the privilege of hearing from our dear brother in Christ, Archbishop Tito Zavala.

Why was this so significant for our church family? Of course it’s always good to provide hospitality to brothers and sisters in Christ as they pass through town. The Bible has plenty to say about that. But I’m even more moved by the vision of heaven that we find scattered throughout the Bible. It’s a joyful vision of a global, multiethnic, multilingual community of people singing praise to God the Father for our redemption in Christ. The first book of the Bible begins with a promise to Abraham that he will be blessed so that he can be a blessing to all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3). And the last book of the Bible gives us this glimpse of how that promise to Abraham will be fulfilled:

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

This past weekend it was good to get a sample, a sneak preview, of that glorious biblical vision. It’s exciting to part of a surging Anglican movement that is truly global in scope. May our hearts long for it more and more! And may we get a taste of it in our day.

The 80% Factor

February 24, 2014

How do you sum up our approach (at least 80% of it) to Compassion Ministries in one word? Easy, it’s the word RELATIONSHIPS. It’s tempting to do things for people without really being with people. But relationships aren’t just about helping people from above; they’re also about walking beside people as friends. It’s about learning from people and not just giving to people. But here’s what I’m learning about this 80% factor: it is eye-opening, adventurous, and even downright fun.

Let me give you a personal example. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of sharing dinner with three friends from Africa. After spending two hours sharing an African meal, we started talking about meals in general, in particular different cultural assumptions about sharing food. These friends are strikingly polite and kind, but they offered their honest critique about Americans’ strange approach to dinner etiquette.

One of my friends said, “I love this country, but I do not understand why Americans are so regimented about meals. Everything is so rigidly organized that there is very little room for friendship and hospitality.” Another friend chimed in: “In my country, the dinner table might be set for six, but the invitees are allowed and even expected to bring other guests at the last minute. It’s not rude to bring extra guests; it’s rude to not welcome those extra guests with open arms. If the host grumbles, word would get out that he is not a good man.” A third friend said, “Yes, but no matter how many guests eventually show up there is always enough places and enough food. We expect more company. We show honor to each guest.” The second friend added, “And they might end up staying at your house for the night, or longer.” I kind of gasped, “Okay, but the guests leave eventually, right?” “Yes,” my friend said, “but they might stay for a week or two, or even a month.”

I’m not saying that everyone can or should do meals and hospitality the “African way.” But I also sure left that dinner reconsidering my “American way” of doing meals. My African friends opened my eyes and challenged my assumptions. But they also touched my heart. I’ve grown accustomed to sharing meals—and life in general—in such a rushed, regimented way that it’s hard to build deep friendships and rich community. I may need to change, and I may need to ask my African friends to help me on the journey of transformation.

Now I think growing, changing, learning—especially learning better ways to follow Jesus—makes life fun and interesting. It’s not always easy, but it’s adventurous. But here’s my point: those kinds of interactions don’t happen when we just do things for people, instead of with people. We don’t learn. We don’t change and grow. We just expect people to become more like us. In real relationships, relationships in which we become open and vulnerable to the other person, our heart is touched and we change. We don’t just give; we also receive rich gifts from the person before us.

Sure, at times we will have to do things for people (that’s the smaller but sometimes essential 20% factor). But our basic goal is create opportunities to make sure the 80% factor actually fills up 80% of our time and energy.