September 10th, 2015
For just three weeks this summer we revisited that path that marks the way for all we do in our community. What the phrase lacks in catchiness it amply makes up for in import. For to be faithfully present is to swim upstream against the modern impulse to let attention splinter into so many interests and efforts that it is never really fixed on anything meaningfully. Presence, as being attentive and responsive, rescues love from either vacuousness or mere sentimentality.
For faithful presence to be what guides everything we undertake, it shouldn’t be a surprise to be able to pick out, on any given week, activity that offers explicit examples of the vision in action. But this week in particular the fulness of our vision is sharply in view.
Last night those considering participation on our inaugural Mercy Cohort sat down for the first time together, both to share parts of themselves that would explain their interest and also to begin reaching a common consensus on the meaning, mandate, and motive for mercy.
Towards the beginning of the evening I shared a poem from the Polish author, Czesław Miłosz (“Cheslaf Miwosh”). He’d been reared in the Roman Catholic church, departed from that faith as he entered adolescence, but then returned to faith later in life. This unnamed poem (HT: Alan Jacobs) speaks of something common both to many cultures and faith traditions–the instinct toward compassion and mercy:
Religion comes from our pity for humans
They are too weak to live without divine protection.
Too weak to listen to the screeching noise of the turning of infernal wheels.
Who among us would accept a universe in which there was not one voice
Of compassion, pity, understanding?
To be human is to be completely alien amid the galaxies.
Which is sufficient reason for erecting, together with others, the temples of an unimaginable mercy.
Milosz says in poetry what C.S. Lewis said in prose in his book The Abolition of Man–namely that there is an undercurrent of virtue found in nearly every civilization and religion. But that in Christianity something unique emerged: that unimaginable mercy to which cultures and faiths pay frequent homage was transformed from an ethic to a Person. And that Person was divine. And what made His mercy unimaginable was that He suffered to extend mercy to those who did not deserve it.
These brave folks who’ve begun the training in the ministry of mercy are helping our church take its first organized steps toward being present to our world(s). Through mercy, on the basis of His unimaginable mercy.
Part of the Cohort’s training has to do with building community within itself. Extending mercy is often complicated, protracted, and thankless. Without the insights, encouragements, and reproof of one another, what mercy requires will be overwhelming. They’ll need one another to persevere in what the Cohort undertakes.
What’s true of the Cohort will be true of all the Community Groups that are soon to form starting next week. Five groups will assemble across our region, each with a different focus.
We’ll have some tables at the back of our worship space in between 1st and 2nd hour this Sunday for our Community Group facilitators to share the details about their respective groups and to answer any questions. You’ll also be able to sign up for groups. We’re asking anyone who considers joining a group to decide whether to commit within 2-3 weeks time. Then the first week of October the groups will close for the remainder of the semester, opening back up (at the discretion of the facilitators) after the first of year to add new people. If you didn’t see the full roster of our groups you can download a copy by clicking here.
Our capacity to be present to our world(s) derives in large part from having practiced being present to one another. People are messy, euphemistically speaking. That messiness gets amplified when brought together in relationship. But for all the grunge that comes with community, there’s a glory to be found where the gospel circumscribes and penetrates that people.
For all its warts, it’s the community that offers us insights into God we might not otherwise find. It’s our life together that serves to point us to Him. Sunday night we’ll gather at the McAndrew’s (1215 Rita Ln) for our monthly time of corporate prayer. We “trouble heaven” by seeking communion with God and then asking much of God. It’s what we do on those Sunday nights that we practice what it means to be present to God.
Present to our world, to one another, and to the Lord. That’s what we do. That’s who we are. They all go together and they’re all in play in earnest this week.
Still not on The City? Why not? It’s where we update you on events, share prayer requests, ask for help from one another, and keep all our efforts in alignment. If you’re struggling with the technical side, don’t give up! We’re happy to help. Jonathan will be back soon during an upcoming 2nd hour to let you ask questions about anything City-related.