Tag Archives: equality

Be Born in Us Today

Impressionist painting of the Nativity

While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.  Luke 2:6-7, CEB

Just as Mary and Joseph cared for Jesus in his humble birthplace, may we too care for Jesus by caring for those closest to us. I pray as well that our reflections on the Nativity story will open our hearts, and our guestrooms, for Jesus to be borne into our daily life experiences.

This reminds me of the last verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

Merry Christmas!

Grace and peace,
Brook

People of the Table

Of any church I have ever attended, VLC has the best fellowship by far! I am blessed by our commitment to eat together, including all the preparations by our designated hosts and by you all on the fourth Sunday of each month. It’s a delight to sit down across the table from a loving and smiling face and get to know each other and support one another. This is something to be treasured!

shared_mealI used the word fellowship above on purpose to describe our church family meals together. The word “fellow” conjures up notions of being on the same level, none being more important than another. It also describes the fact that we are all in this together. * I think it’s significant that we use fellowship along with our meal time, since when we sit down to eat we are, again, all at the same level, sharing a friendly, yet intimate, experience.

Being “people of the table” means more that just celebrating Communion, but it does include that. When Jesus gave us the practice of Communion, it was a part of a larger meal. When the early church worshipped and fellowshipped together, they did so house to house, sharing meals. I believe that when we sit down together for a meal we are declaring our unity, that together we are one as we enjoy God’s presence during our meal. For me that too is communion.

Lastly, Stuart Nice, in his Daily Scripture Reading email for Thursday, January 21, shared with us about Recognizing Our Brother. It is a great article on what little actually separates us when we choose to see Jesus in one another. As I read this I was reminded of the post-resurrection story of the disciple on the road to Emmaus. There Jesus meets them on the road, though they didn’t recognize him. He then sits down with them for a meal. While he is breaking the bread he is revealed to them, and they are revealed both to themselves and each other. Their example to us was that our hearts and lives can be expanded when we choose to be open to the leading of God’s Spirit and have eyes open to see Jesus in one another. These are also the marks of being People of the Table.

Grace and peace,
Brook

  • The etymology of the word “fellowship” comes from the Old English, meaning, literally, “one who lays down money in a joint enterprise.” Fellowship occurs when we commit and invest lives to Christ and one another.

The Currency of Love

I have been reading through and thinking about the Beatitudes, the first act of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:3-12) I am always amazed at how Jesus turns common perceptions on their ear. In this first of eight couplets that make up the Beatitudes, Jesus uses language of commerce to teach about the inclusive nature of the people of God.

boys walking in nature “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:3 NIV)

Jesus starts out with “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Being poor is a reference point to wealth, that is, not having enough. We would most naturally say, “Blessed are the wealthy!” We wouldn’t even add “in spirit.” But Jesus flips the sentiment on us and declares those who understand that they cannot add to the dimension of the Spirit available to us are the ones with whom the blessing of the Spirit can most naturally reside. It is from this position of poverty that makes way for the inclusive nature of the people of God, because we can appreciate people for who they are and not what they have or can buy.

Jesus then says, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Kingdoms naturally bring up notions of wealth. Kingdoms are fought over and bought off. Heaven is the one resource that can never be bought or even earned, but due to it’s elusiveness, it is of the upmost value! Jesus affirms that kingdom of heaven belongs to those who understand that there is nothing they can do to acquire it. Kingdoms are comprised of people. People cannot be acquired, only accepted! It is from the place of mutual acceptance that Spirit of God’s love can most freely move.

I pray that as we seek to know Christ more and the love God has for all people, that we too would understand our poverty of spirit and that we love God best when we love others well.

Grace and peace,
Brook

Being One in the Holy Spirit

In the traditional Christian calendar, this Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. It is the commemoration and celebration of the outpouring and infilling of the Holy Spirit on the church just ten days after the ascension of Jesus. In response to people’s questions, the Apostle Peter quotes an ancient prophecy from Joel 2.

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams. Even upon my servants, men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18, CEB)

When the Holy Spirit arrived on the day of Pentecost, God was beautifully indiscriminate toward those who would receive this wonderful gift. All were included: young and old, female and male, and those from all walks of life, even to the lowliest servant. The same is true today. It is always my prayer that as we gather we find those ways that the Holy Spirit unites us in love so that we can recognize that God is “over all, through all, and in all.” (Ephesians 4:6, CEB)

Grace and peace,
Brook

Embracing Diversity: On Becoming Us

There is a great paradox in this life. We are all the same, and we are not all the same. This realization came out in the conversation following the talk I gave last Sunday at VLC. We were exploring the “us and them” perspective and came to the understanding that when I see someone as a them it’s generally because there is some junk in my life I need to deal with. This junk makes me want to build a wall between me and the other person. If I allow God to help me work through this junk so that I can see the other person for who they are then then this person can become an us to me.


Diversity and difference are two sides of the same coin. Diversity includes. Difference excludes. Diversity allows for a multiplicity of voices and perspectives. Difference only allows the voices and perspectives that align with the dominant view of the greater whole.


In his letters the Apostle Paul spends a significant amount of energy helping the churches to work through this paradox, (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Colossians 3:12-17Ephesians 2:11-22; this is not exhaustive) especially as grew and spread across the known world. What I take from this is that we are to develop diversity, by working through our junk, within the household of faith so that we can offer more points of access into the family of faith.


Grace and peace,
Brook

Embracing Us, Because There Is No Them: Audio Version

This is a talk I gave at Valley Life Center Foursquare Church on Sunday, February 17, 2013. I address what I call the “us and them” perspective and the implications past and present of holding such a perspective. There is a lively dialogue that follows the talk. Enjoy!

Embracing Us, Because There Is No Them

I was talking with a friend the other evening, and I asked him about how it is possible that people can do unthinkable acts of violence. His response was that we are all a split second away from doing the same, meaning we all have the capability, but don’t allow ourselves to do it. That is an unsettling response, to say the least. I took away from this conversation that there is no us and them, only us.

 

This is what it means to be Jesus in our world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Now we are the visible expression of Jesus in the world. Jesus lived out “there is no them,” which I believe is the heart of his inaugural statement in Luke 4:16-21.

 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

    because the Lord has anointed me.

He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,

    to proclaim release to the prisoners

    and recovery of sight to the blind,

    to liberate the oppressed,

    and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.(v. 18-19)

 

It was as a human being and living within a system that separated people that he sought to bring God’s salvation. This declaration of ministry sought to close the gap that perpetuated the us and them mentality.

 

If we are honest with ourselves, we can recognize our own poverty, captivity, blindness, and oppression, but, as well, we can receive the Lord’s favor and extend it to others, embracing the “us” in us all. God’s salvation is only a split second away.

 

Grace and peace,

Brook

The Hope of Equality

This week I had a conversation with a young man, which ranged over many topics, but one topic is something that I have taken for granted for many years, the role of women in the church. This young man attends a church in which women are not allowed to hold leadership roles in the church. Though he and his wife feel called to that congregation, they do not agree with their church’s stance on the role of women in the church and beyond. I, on the other hand, have been in churches, from the time I was saved until the present, that embrace women in ministry, even women pastors. This is not only my personal heritage, but that of the Foursquare Church as well. This is why I have taken it for granted. It is normative within the circles I engage. But this is not the norm for a large portion of the Christian church in America and around the world. And, though this saddens me, I still have hope. I have hope, because this is a current conversation in both social and theological circles. I have hope, because there are denominations and movements, like the Foursquare Church, that license and ordain women in roles of ministry and leadership. I have hope, because I know that my daughters are and will continue to be raised in a home and church that will embrace them as equals, gifted by God, to serve as God’s Spirit leads in the capacities that they choose to aspire to. My hope, conviction, passion, and experience are founded on this passage of Scripture (one among many).

 

“There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

 

Herein lies the universality of the atoning work of Christ, and if we are unified in his one salvation as equally saved, then we are also unified in his one Spirit as equally equipped to minister his love and grace to a world that desperately needs to be touched by his love through his people, both male and female. 

 

Grace and peace,

Brook