It was a few days before the Christmas break and the usual group had assembled at my home to enjoy each others company and share some food. She looked at me and asked in all seriousness, 'Christmas, isn't that when you remember Jesus dying?' It immediately struck me, the immense opportunity before me as I had never happened upon someone so genuinely naive as to the reason behind Christmas, yet even more, to the person of Jesus and why he has sought out reconciliation with the human race.
We meet about twice per month, usually at my place, I cook and we all eat. A simple invitation gets it all started, 'I am having some friends over Saturday evening to my house and I would like to have you come as well, what do you say?' They come from various points of contact in my life; workplace, neighborhood, next door neighbor, related to a neighbor, a contact from the past. Sometimes they all come, other times some of them, and even other times the unexpected ones arrive. I think we kind of belong together, but yet no one would really believe they belong to anything………except they may say they know me and that is why they come. I like to think it is church, church that you never knew you were a part of, but realize it as you look in the rearview mirror.
In recent months it has also become common to look at a few of the teachings of Jesus, to explore a bit of who he is and what he teaches. It is not much really, but a quick look at a small bit of what he taught or his character often from a bible story or a parable. Several times some of us have met on a weekday to view a DVD series by Carl Medearis entitled, 'Engage'. Carl, amongst others takes apart many of our notions of religion, Christianity, God, church and simply draws us to see Jesus, not who we want or maybe have thought him to be, but just, Jesus. I don't find people offended by the person of Jesus, quite the opposite actually, a drawing point, a point of contact, a place where we can come together. That may not seem like much if you hang out with persons of similar background and/or religious persuasion, but rarely so here. I like it that way, in fact that is the way I prefer it.
The other thing that I have noticed is that we all seem to have had or are having a struggle with brokenness. It kind of levels the playing field, no one has anything up on the other, and we can often hear an echo of our own story as another shares. Brokenness does not disqualify you nor does it elevate you, but it exposes you, exposes you in a way that you do not have to pretend. If you are not busy pretending then it makes it much easier to love and be loved.
Often we have many children present and however chaotic, we always go away feeling like it was good to be together. If you are tempted to pretend or go through the motions of something where your heart is not in it, children will often point it out first, they have a way of keeping us honest. If things ever lack excitement, then our concluding games time is sure to liven things up. The laughter and good natured teasing is contagious.
Meeting together has reminded me many times about being flexible and to hold schedules and plans lightly. No matter what you expect, most times it will be different. This was apparent a few days ago as everyone was to come over at the usual time, but some forgot and we ended up with a smaller group, the group we often view the DVD with. I was tempted to shift gears and try the DVD, but on a number of occasions didn't feel right deep down that it was to happen that way. As I exercised some patience, a conversation topic came up from one of the guys, what did we think about the commonly quoted phrase, 'If you have a dream and you work hard enough, you can make it happen' or something to that effect. The question was, is this true? or is it necessary to include God in the equation? We ended up having a great conversation about who is ultimately in control of our lives and God's interaction with us. Good to have a plan, also good to be able to know when to use it and when to lay it down.
After realizing this immense opportunity, I took the initiative to explain the story of God's redemptive plan woven throughout the Old and New Testaments of the bible to which she responded enthusiastically. Her interest was so perked that I got out the 'Jesus' DVD in her native Arabic which she promptly watched and took with her afterwards. There is something really fresh and exciting about things that may have grown old and cold when we give them away. It is like having a child in the room, the laughter and good natured teasing is contagious.