Friday, April 30, 2010

The Crumbs Under The Welcome Table Church

First, let me say it's been a wonderful and full to overflowing Eastertide here in our church. We have finished our free community academy and have projects underway in nine areas growing out of the grassroots organizing with OU Graduate social work students and our residents, our own strategic planning, have watched and discussed the movies The Blind Side and Man on a Wire and linked them to our missional community here. And we have continued with our efforts at The Welcome Table Kitchen Garden Park and more adding new partners every week and conducting more folks around our area and connecting them with our projects, amazing them that so much is being done by so few all volunteers. .

We also had a good sermon written in part about us that inspires me even more. You can see it at under "The Abandoned Places of Empire" and to keep up with some of what is going on, and why, continue to go to and www.progressivechurchplanting.blogspot.

Tomorrow we will be practicing resurrection by putting in a new welcome to turley sign and beautifying it, and working more at Cherokee School and maybe Greeley school gardens we have started, and cleaning up the trash dumped on our streets, and having a giveaway day for books and clothes and more at the center and have a free meal and a free performance of country music by Johnny and the Oklahomans.

Sunday we will have communion, pray the lords prayer as every week, talk about the resurrection and talk about God and Belief and God without Belief et al and why atheists are welcome here at our missional community without their having to feel constantly beseiged to change their minds, and we will see some powerful witnesses about resurrection from the progressive Christian DVD, and if weather permits we might do some of it up at the hilltop site where we are trying to raise funds for The Welcome Table Kitchen Garden Park amid the ruins. Come and join us either at the Center 6514 N. Peoria or at the hilltop at 60th and N. Johnstown at 10 am or when you can make it, and stay for our common meal together. Sundays here, as you will read below, are always full of surprises, and as my colleague and friend and mentor Carl Scovel has written, surprise is God's other name, truly, truly.

The title of this homily doesn't refer, necessarily, to the informal and homey way we do communion every Sunday morning, though we often comment how the mess we make of the bread of life everlasting is like how the body of Christ is not neat and orderly, well prepared and sanitarily presented and easy and conveniently consumed, but instead comes to us in fragments, crumbles, and gets all over us even when we try to keep it together.

The title of this homily refers to how the welcome table that is our lives, and our churches and associations, is a place for mutual transformation and conversion, one crumb at a time. The story behind the title is the story of Jesus' encounter with the Syrophoenician woman, from Mark 7. And it is our story, my story, in our missional community of faith here. It is not easy; mistakes happen; I slip back into default mode of scarcity too, and am comforted by this gospel story that it happens to Jesus too. More on that story and then about what happened last Sunday, a little story, that moves me still.

Jesus heads outside his perceived comfort zone, off toward Tyre in an area where the dominant culture is not Jewish but Gentile. He tries to hide, take a break for awhile, find his comfort zone, inside a house so no one would know he was there, but a woman alone, a mother, goes inside to confront him and plead for Jesus to heal her daughter.And Jesus dismissively says no, that the bread of his healing, that God, is only for those of his kind. Instead of letting that stand though, she, who risked much by going to him, risking rejection and shame, but driven by love and justice, says back to Jesus, as if quoting Jesus himself, holding up a mirror for him to see his self, says but even the dogs get the crumbs off the masters table. Even a little bread, even the crumbs, even those unintentionally given or found in surprising and shameful places and people, that will have healing too. And Jesus is caught up, converted, changed, and the woman's daughter is healed, and so too is Jesus.

Last Sunday, I am at the Center scurrying around trying to set up worship space, make copies, get things ready because I want our communion service to be one where the presence of God is experienced in our sharing of our lives, lighting candles, prayers, communion homily about Peter and Tabitha, spirited singing and then our watching the documentary and discussion about how we were a Church on the Wire, creating risky beauty acts in dangerous ways and places in secular society. I am in my zone or trying to get in my zone for worship, and then a woman with a daughter in need of healing slips into the house where I have other plans, am thinking about myself.

But this time the syrophoenician woman is instead an 11 year old boy who often comes to our center to be on the computers during the week and especially on Sunday, sometimes he comes in and out of worship with us, sometimes stays nearby on the computers, sometimes it gets a little distracting especially when it draws the other children away from our circle of worship. And this time, this Sunday, I really wanted worship to be that moving kind of experience. And so scurrying around I find him and tell him that today the community center will be closed and he can stay for worship but not on the computers. He nods and stays glued to the monitor and fortunately for me Bonnie grabs me and pulls me away and holds up the mirror. She says she had been talking with him and found out that the night before his mother had been in a bad accident and was in the hospital and his uncle was coming to get him in a while from the center to take to the hospital, and I remember how his cousin had recently been shot in one of the gang related activities near us, and he himself had been bitten by a pack of wild dogs that have been dumped and roam our community center by the walking trail preventing often our residents from being able to use the trail especially if they are on foot and not on bicycles as many are who come through our community from elsewhere.

God was already present, through this 11 year old, and I was scurrying around ignoring God in my quest for God. I go back and tell him he can stay, ask about his mother, his family, and find out that he wants to be able to buy her a present at the hospital to take to her and he asks if there is some work he can to help us to earn the money for the gift. There always is at our Center of course, and so community and healing is reformed, deeper this time, and I am reminded how easy it is to forget the mission we are on, and the real meaning of this place, and thankful for the opportunity then, and the opportunities I get all the time but sometimes don't recognize, in this way of doing church missionally.

If you read Thom's sermon above, or other things and ever get to thinking that I must be this wonderfully spiritual, dedicated, sacrificial, serving missional leader, I hope this story, and of course my many other similar experiences trying to create a welcome table full of bread for all, will remind you that I am not, and that it means even more that I am not. For it is the crumbs under the table people and moments that truly create the miracles. And once we decide that we can do this anyway, this way of becoming church even when we will make missteps like the one I did and even worse ones, much worse, then maybe we will begin to see that wherever we are and in whatever circumstances we might find ourselves, and no matter how imperfect our leadership, that none of it will keep us from the love of God and that love will be with us as we create our own third places and missional relationships and initiatives in a diversity of ways. The crumbs under the table will sustain you in ways you can't imagine.

Thanks, blessings, see you soon, sorry these epistles don't come out more often, keep me in your prayers and us in your prayers and let us know how we can pray with you and for you; know that any day you can have a candle lit for you here at A Third Place or wherever we end up being in worship.

oh and please find ways to be our ambassadors to others as well.

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