Loving our Neighbors
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” These opening words of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens reflect the many realities we face in the United States.
Our recent visit to Ocean Beach, CA, gave me a glimpse of some of these best of times, ages of wisdom, and epochs of belief. We were invited by Clayton and Jessica Connolly to meet some of their friends with whom they serve in this cool, relaxed beach-side community.
The Connollys are a family devoted to each other and their neighbors. They serve locally in their community to solve problems face-to-face and with individual people. Their home is open to anyone to come and share life with them; the small 800 square foot home is often a busy hive of activities.
More than 60 people responded to the invitation and shared stories of the amazing ways that people are encountering God in the local bars, tattoo parlors, and New Age Fairs. One such way involves inviting passersby to come in for a spiritual reading which often ends up in prayers for healing and deliverance. A prayer room has been established along local shops to meet people needs everyday.
It was evident that these folks have a clear attitude of humility that acknowledges that we don’t have all the answers and that it is okay to identify our own doubts and fears. One of the participants explained how the spiritual landscape is being leveled as those who follow Jesus recognize themselves as being just further down the road then those who are yet to follow.
The folks we met here are committed to identifying needs in Ocean Beach and finding ways to meet them. Those who benefit become an expression of community and also are part of fresh entrepreneurial models of business.
People are seeing their needs being met. They are gathering as communities and businesses are being established, which enables sustainability, unlike the more commonplace model of starting churches, which require member donations to operate.
A few days after our gathering, Clayton reported that Stasi, an Episcopal minister and our host for the gathering, said “You want to be a big deal for God? Go down. Not up.”
Stasi said that when these words were spoken, she decided to decline the job she’d been offered at a church. “It was my first honest-to-goodness, titled-and-paid ministry offer. It was the first rung on the ladder of clergy success…and I realized I just didn’t need it”
Stasi explained “I have rarely felt more free or excited about the ways God is using me. I simply have too much kingdom work to do to take a job at a church right now. God’s blowing apart all the boxes I thought my gifts and passions fit me in, and instead inspiring me to work that is simple & satisfying because it flows right out of me with no effort at all.
This is what it means to take a leap of faith. As I said in Sunday’s sermon, “Even if we don’t land, we shall mount up with wings.