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Stranger in a promised land…

all who wander are not lost

I wrote briefly about At the Gate and my longing to be part of that community. There is something about it that is comforting and familiar to me. And I know Joelle well enough to know that this community will be stewarded well. The group of people who have plugged in to At the Gate are amazing. There is good stuff going on there and a large part of me craves being a part of that at any level.

Over the past several months I have been feeling a strong pull in a completely different direction. There is a faithful community that has been stretching me and challenging me in ways that I have never experienced  before. It is a community that has a core set of practices that are new to me. But they are beautiful practices that have begun to form my faith in new ways. It is a generous community full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. It is filling a space in my soul that has been empty for a long time. And in that way it is refreshing and life giving.

The challenge for me is that as positive as this community and its shared practices have been in my life, I am a foreigner there. I am excluded from much of the liturgy. In a very real sense, I find that I am a stranger in a promised land. It is difficult for me because this exclusion flows only in one direction. Following one of my favorite theologians, I respond to this exclusion with the will to embrace. So I find that in some parts of the liturgy I am swimming in a different lane. Two primary examples can illustrate this tension. First, while the community recites together the Nicene Creed, I follow along privately in my own space by silently reading the Apostle’s creed. Second, while the practices do feed me spiritually, to be faithful to their own convictions, they withhold from me their primary food. There are other practices that I just do not know well enough yet to join in. So there are moments where this beautiful, faith forming community is a bit de-centering and centering at the same time. But they are happy to generously bless me, and (while it probably does not mean much to them theologically speaking,) I bless them right back.

One of my favorite things of this community of faith is that one of the pastoral stewards shares a last name with my favorite missiologist and he has the same passion for missions and bringing the redemptive work of God into the lives of those he ministers to. I believe that the more time I spend practicing with this community, the more my own faith will be rebuilt and renewed. But that is the topic of another post for another time.

 

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