Jesus, IRL, Now

My story in Jesus’ stories

One of our pastors, Ben White.

I’m always losing something. I guess I’m just a forgetful guy. Most recently it was my wallet. I was sure it was somewhere in my house so I froze all the cards and waited for it to show up. After tearing the house apart several times, my hope of feeling my wallet in the toe of every shoe I put on began to fade. Finally I replaced all my cards—what a hassle—but if I had found my wallet after such an exasperating search I would have been unimaginably relieved and happy.

So I really get that feeling Jesus is trying to convey when he told that story about the woman and the lost coin:

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)

Jesus loved to tell stories. Stories were his preferred method of communication. He could get at a truth that was behind just the stated facts. If his story about the coin were about an actual woman who lost her coin, it would unmake my understanding of her joy. I would not see my own experience in the story and thus I would not really get what he was trying to convey about the Kingdom of God.

At the Love Feast

Our pastor, Joshua, speaking at the Love Feast.

Jesus keeps inviting us into the story, and he keeps using our experiences to make it as real as possible to us. At the Love Feast we piled up more than a dozen stories of personal faith. Ten people joined our covenant, and three people got baptized (some did both). All were talking about Jesus showing up in their lives in conspicuous ways among us.

The covenant is the center of love and mutuality that, with Christ, holds Circle of Hope together. Instead of building walls at the edges to decide who is in or out, we only have a center of “really in” and everyone else is as “in” as they are. The people in our covenant have made an explicit agreement to love and serve Jesus with us according to our mutual agreements. The covenant is the hard-won dialogue of love at the center of us that makes our gravity as powerful as it is. It prevents our diffuse and anti-hierarchic system from spinning into nothing at all.

I was very moved by the demonstration of faith I saw in all these stories. The angels must have been doing a lot of wallet-discovery-level rejoicing on Saturday. These folks were saying that they had changed. They were transformed (that’s really what “repent” means BTW). One person said the love they experienced in Circle of Hope made them doubt all the doubt of their former atheism. Another person told a story about radical love and Jesus’ forgiveness as a freedom that seemed to be reorganizing how their brain worked. Yet another said that a fight they started on a High School field led them into a relationship with a Jesus person that changed their whole life.

One more—a friend did an experiment—he adopted a default “yes” to everything Circle of Hope had to offer for a season. In saying “yes” he discovered the freedom of what it meant to say Jesus is “Lord.” “Jesus is Lord” doesn’t mean that Jesus is making us do a bunch of stuff we don’t want to do. Jesus is Lord means that we are no longer limited by our individual capacity. He said:

I don’t want to follow Jesus because I am searching for meaning, but because Jesus has shown me how much I mean. I gave him the  smallest opening and he blew the door right off. It humbled me. And made me realize how unstoppable I could be if I was a conduit for God’s love.

Baptism is joining Jesus’ Story

Our pastor, Rachel, baptizing Chris.

A number of our new partners took the step of baptism in the frigid Delaware River, the main river that unites Circle of Hope in a single watershed. It was very real. It actually took their breath away to plunge into that water as they knelt in the very muddy river bed. In baptism we identify with Jesus in his death and resurrection, so it was living poetry when each person gasped as they came up from the water. In Circle of Hope we want to enter into Jesus’ story in real ways. We say that Jesus is best revealed incarnationally—meaning IRL, with real bodies. The real bodies in the Delaware and the personal, real stories at the Love Feast were signs to all of us that Jesus is alive. He invites us into his story, and I am so glad to be a part of people entering into it with theirs.

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