Love Bears All Things, Believes All Things, Hopes All Things…

Since January, our community worship gatherings have focused on the famous definition of ‘Love’ offered by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:4-8). Over the weeks, various members of the community have offered their thoughts and experiences opening us up to more fully understand and enter into this profound reality of love. We are learning that…

1 Cor. 13:4-8 from the Message
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies…

In this post, we’re going to look at the final phrases in this passage, which in the NRSV (vs 7) reads: [Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.   

Because various english translations use different words to communicate, (such as, is it “bears all things” or “always protects”?) it’s helpful to break down the language a bit and make sure we’re on track with a reasonable definition of the words as they were written. The Greek Transliteration reads, “Panta Stego, panta pisteuo, panta elpizo, panta hupomeno”

Bears - Stego – to protect, cover, endure, bear

All Things – panta – all, any, every, the whole: — all manner of things, always, everyone, every way…

Believes all things – What does it mean to believe? Can you believe all things?
Pisteuo v.  [4412]. to believe, put one’s faith in, trust, with an implication that actions based on that trust may follow. The Greek word-group which includes faith, believe and trust, comes from the idea of conduct that honored an agreement or bond.

Like in marriage, I have faith in my wife. I believe that she is thoughtful, caring, supportive, and devoted in our life together. I can act out of that faith, I can trust, or I can act out of a belief that she’s only looking out for herself, that I’m on my own, and have to look out for my own self, take responsibility for everything, satisfy my own needs. It’s when I lose faith in her that I become the least faithful to her. My own stated belief is betrayed by my actions. And when I act out of faith in her, I am more faithful to her and inspire her own faithfulness.

Faith is not static it’s not something we simply have or attain. In this way, one cannot ‘be’ a believer, because to believe is not about intellectually assenting to an idea about God or Jesus, it is about living consistently and faithfully in a way that honors all things. In a given moment we are either faithful to all manner of people, things and relationship, or we are not. We either believe all things, or we believe some small thing that releases us from our responsibility to honor all the other things.

Hopes all things – (elpizoœ), expect, hope
In secular Gk. elpis does not correspond with our word hope, since it is a general word for the anticipation of future events of all kinds, of good (hope) or evil (fear). In the new testament the words never indicate a vague or a fearful anticipation, but always the expectation of something good.

Hopefully defining these phrases helps a bit and stirs up your thinking. Here’s where my mind went…

Sometimes I wonder if we’re asking too much of the text to pick apart every word like this. But then, maybe not, ‘cause, sometimes the paragraphs just flow and the thought develops over time, but then there are moments where as a writer you just agonize over every word. Have you ever tried to write a really meaningful card to someone, a poem, or song lyrics, and the idea is sort of there, but you pause, and consider this word or that, you turn it around and finally come up with something? I have a real sense that this is one of those moments for Paul. He’s been cruising through this letter, gradually confronting the division of the Corinthian community, drawing their attention to the ways in which they are all part of one body with unique and important strengths that function to bless one another. And he gets to these climactic and defining lines that elevate our sense of the beauty, strength, and grace of love. And each word matters. It is poetic, it is grand and sort of idyllic, but it is also true. This is a love that is going somewhere, a love that as it picks up steam is constantly inviting more and more participation, until it is in and through and over everything…

We are called into a love that is patient and kind, a love that is humble, that sees others. A love that is slow to anger, generous, able to give itself and others the blessing of new beginnings. We are invited into a love that has integrity across time and space, that works for everyone and everything, everywhere; a love that celebrates and delights in all that is just and good and true.

And this love, will prevail. It will never end because it can bear all things. If you try to choke it out, or bottle it up, it will bust out the seams and get all over everything again. If you try to kill it, if you try to bury it in the ground, it will just rise up again with a more grounded, humble strength knowing that even the darkest and most troubling realities of life can be transformed into sources of vitality and life.

And this love is full of faith and trust and hope. It believes and anticipates that this life and vitality is going to spring up, despite everything that in the present moment says otherwise. The Jesus story is saying something about the nature of the world that is hard to believe…

The gospel announcement proclaims to the powers of the world that divisions and manipulation, violence, killing, stratifying, devaluing, hoarding, raping and pillaging will come to an end. They will cease, but love will not. They will be judged, destroyed, and abolished, but faith, hope, and love will remain.

What are you bearing right now? Are others bearing it with you? Do you have hope that something beautiful, good and true can spring up from this experience? What are you hoping for? What would resolution look like? Is that resolution good for everyone, all things? Faith lives in the tension between bearing and experiencing the resolution of what we hope for?

May we, in the strength and grace of God, live in a way that honors all things, all relationships, all people, and all of the resources given to us on this good earth.

Foods for thoughts: two videos

Here are two videos that I watched tonight digging around doing some thesis research.  I think you all might find them challenging and encouraging and somewhere in between:

Kester Brewin’s Letter to North America (videography a little cheesy, but the content is worth it!)  This was a part of a project called 8th letter, where Christian thinkers were inspired to write a letter to the church today in the way Paul, John, and Peter wrote letters to the early churches.

Kester Brewin’s Letter to the Churches in North America

Brooklyn Pastor Jay Bakker speaks about the radical implications of what he sees as the Gospel of grace.

Jay Bakker – A Love That Restores

Controversial stuff.  Agree/disagree?

Link

The Spiritual Audacity of Abraham Joshua Heschel

This is a really good interview from On Being, a show that features different guests on a spiritual topic.  This one is about Abraham Joshua  Heschel, a famous Jewish rabbi and theologian who was engaged in two of America’s great social justice issues of the 1900s–Civil Rights and the Vietnam War.  Worth the listen!

Here’s a taste:

Krista Tippett:

Susannah Heschel has talked about how her father would say that, you know, she said: “He used to remind me that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, with tanks and guns. It began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda. ‘Words create worlds,’ he used to tell me when I was a child.”

Mr. Eisen: When he said words create worlds, he was paraphrasing one of the most important daily prayers that Jews say: “Blessed is God who spoke and the world came into being.” And Heschel was a master of words. He was a master of words not just in English but in German, Yiddish, Hebrew. I don’t know enough to judge the Polish. But Heschel knew that what we say matters. That’s one of the things he taught. He’s a man who wants to summon something in us beyond our rational, logical faculties. He wants to summon our care.

And perhaps I could read from the end of chapter nine in Man Is Not Alone, when Heschel is describing what I think has to be a personal religious experience. And he says before this paragraph that in general we resist the knowledge that’s coming at us. We stay inside what he calls a cage and live on a “dainty diet” because we’re apprehensive about what is waiting for us outside. But then at a certain moment, “Staggered, embarrassed, we stammer and say: ‘God, who is more than all there is, who speaks through the ineffable, whose question is more than our mind can answer, God, to whom our life can be the spelling of an answer.’” That’s Heschel.

Middle Voice

Yesterday’s teaching opened with the story of Israel and the process of going out and collecting manna day by day (Ex. 16:11-32), and how that’s the idea behind “give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:9-13). Then I went on to talk about a more philosophical idea of living in the middle voice, not being either passive or active in a specific situation, technically acting while being acted upon. And how this idea is woven through the scripture in terms of our responsibility before God and with God. Entering into salvation, (think, Israelite Exodus) or entering the Kingdom of Heaven, is something that we can’t attain on our own, and yet God doesn’t do it all for us without our acting, without our being involved in the process.

The picture that I posted attempts to illustrate the middle voice, by drawing attention to our active, passive, and middle voice roles respectively. Active = We buy a ladder and try to climb our way to Salvation (think tower of Babel). Passive = Accepting Jesus is like pushing a button on an elevator, the rest is up to God. Middle = In Christ, we receive a gift, something we could not attain on our own. In this ill. we’ll call it a windsurfing board. We have the possibility of sailing over the water, but we’ve gotta get out their and harness the wind (i.e. the H.S.) to live into and bring forth the kingdom of God. We can’t accomplish it on our own, but we’ve got to get out there and take responsibility to act out the way of Jesus…

The reason I’m taking time to write is that I felt the talk was quite incomplete and didn’t come back around to connecting the practical, what about our worry, and the philosophical, the middle voice… As I reflected on it this morning while raking my lawn it made so much more sense and I wanted to share my thoughts. Also, because the whole thing didn’t come together well, I missed an opportunity for us to enter into a prayer that Mike D’Angelo had sent me Saturday night. At this point, I see how it could have worked and would’ve been powerful for us to participate in together, so I have included that as well.

Remembering, that worry in itself, isn’t a sin, and in many ways, lack of worry is a reward for living out the teachings of Jesus in faith and trust that God is going to work through that kind of living to bring rescue to all of creation, including the one acting in faith; and that worry like anger or any of our emotions, when we don’t let them run wild, actually functions as sort of a thermometer to draw attention to things that need to be dealt with in our lives or situations around us; we can make some connections between worry, the reality  of our situations, and this idea of the middle voice…

Because sometimes we worry desperately because everything is dependent on us. If we don’t do it, if we don’t attain it, if we don’t accomplish it, something terrible is going to happen. We are responsible, we have to get it done. Either we will fail in the future, our family will fail, our friends will fail , or something will fall apart.  We are living in the active voice.

Faith is relational. Jesus invites us into a way of living that is interdependent, a way of living he says allows us to experience an easy yolk, and a light burden. When we try to accomplish anything of lasting significance alone, we may succeed for a while, but it will most often lead to a life of worry and stress, especial as one gets older and is less capable of functioning as effectively as they once did. Even if the goals we set out to achieve are honoring and true to God, they can only be accomplished interdependently, with faith in God and in other people.

On the other hand we worry incessantly when we feel out of control. When the responsibility is all on someone else’s shoulders and we feel like there’s nothing we can or should do. After all, we’re saved by faith, not works…(i.e., we might feel like we should not take any tangible action). We’re left waiting, maybe hoping, worrying, longing, anticipating, second-guessing, are they going to step up and take care of this? When, how long, why me, why won’t God, my landlord, boss, teacher, family, my… get their act together and deal with this situation, save me? We are living in the passive voice. We may claim to have faith, but our worry betrays us. True, we are invited to wait on the Lord, but that waiting is for direction and renewed strength to act. Life and rescue is not all out of our control. God is looking for a body; hands and feet that act out the way of Jesus in the world. God is at work, but miracles come when we step out in faith and offer what we have to give. The middle voice concept reminds us, that we have a role to play. We are not alone, but we are not at the mercy of fate. We are destiny…

As we live in interdependent relationships with God and those around us, we learn that our responsibility isn’t just pray, but pray and act. As many saints have reminded us, there is a need for contemplation with some action and action with some contemplation the two must work together.

We are not on our own and we’re not riding an elevator. When we figure out the middle voice, when were acting and being acted upon, we can harness the winds of the Holy Spirit, we can windsurf, we can act with joy, we can live the reward of not worrying yet accomplishing great things through the strength and grace of God.

In response, we might reflect on the things we worry about. Are we playing the active or passive role? What might it look like to enter into the situation in faith, interdependent on God and on God’s body, the church?

The Jesus Prayer:
The Way of the Pilgrim is a devotional classic about the Anonymous Russian pilgrim from the 19th Century.  He was an orphan, a poor beggar who was alone in the world, disabled, and mistreated and traveled the countryside on foot. His only possessions were his father’s Bible and the Philokalia (the writings of the church fathers on prayer).  As he wandered from place to place on foot he held his precious Bible over his heart and the Jesus Prayer burned continuously in his heart:

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”

Praying the Jesus Prayer over and over healed his grief after he was orphaned as a young man.  It warmed his body in freezing storms and frightening dark nights.  It empowered him to forgive the people who stole his Bible, beat him, and left him for dead.  It guided him when he was lost.  It drew him out of his shell to offer blessing, healing, and spiritual mentoring to others.

Pray, meditate, and reflect on our anxieties and worries.  As each one comes to mind, recite the Jesus prayer and allow the Holy Spirit to warm, guide, and draw you out into the way of Christ.

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”

Open

(Originally written for the Chi Alpha Campus Ministries Incite Conference June 2012)

We’re all leaders here…we understand the importance of being reminded of and inspired to put into use what we know… And we know that personal growth requires some kind of consistent time being given to an intentional plan… Whether that’s a gym routine, diet, reading plan, subscription to a podcast, taking a class or committing to a practice of spiritual disciplines or leadership technique. And we recognize that it’s easy to over estimate what we can learn in a day, a week, a month, or a year…but often struggle to realize how much we can grow over a steady consistent effort.

But, at the heart of personal growth is something much more difficult to face. And that is the reality of being changed. The reality of giving up something we hold dear to our identity and understanding of who we are. That’s the real challenge we face when we embark on a journey of personal growth. If we do not face this reality with honesty, we can not grow. We will either not genuinely listen, or we will listen only to voices that reinforce what we already believe and know.

image of students at a lit table

image of students at a lit table

In the fall of 1994, I was set on a particular path of personal growth that has taken me places I would never have imagined going…

It was my freshman year of college at Plymouth State and Allen Tofflemire (a senior) invited me to join him at Chi Alpha’s Evangelistic Lit Table.

As we were setting up, Allen told me, “Bryan, the most important thing you need to remember when you’re out here is that you have to be willing to listen. If you have any expectation that people are going to listen to anything you have to say about Jesus, you need to be prepared to fully listen to what they have to say. If you have any hope that they might convert or change their ideas in a way that is more in line with what you believe is true, you have to be equally open to being converted if you discover something that is more true. We have found Jesus to be true, therefore, before anything else, we are seekers of what is true.”
I think Dallas Willard articulated the same idea well in a talk he gave at a UCLA Veritas Forum in 2003.

In order to make a real effort to grow, we have to begin with a softness of heart, an openness to listen rather than a certainty in how things are going to go or what we expect to learn.

“There is a difference between hearing people and listening to them. Listening is wanting to hear…A deaf ear is the first indication of a closed mind…” John Maxwell, Be a People Person

If you remember Peters surprise when the sheet of unclean food came with the message to eat, or Paul, when he had a vision of a Man in Macadonia calling him to come, finds when he arrives instead of a man, or likely as he expected, the 10 men that would constitute a synagogue, a women ready to embrace the message of Christ. Their responses, were, I believe, born out of the reality that Ezekiel prophesied about when he said,

Ezek 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

It’s through a tender and open heart that is willing to listen and be changed that God is able to shape and remake us after his image.

For a long time, I was a part of the IVP book of the month club. I didn’t always purchase the recommended book, but being in the club forced me to spend at least a moment each month paying attention to what was being written and talked about among other christian leaders. In 2005, I picked up the book, “What has Christianity Ever Done for Us?” by Jonathan Hill. I bought it because it seemed like it would give me some good anecdotes and maybe apologetic defense for why Christianity is such a blessing in the world. About half way through the book, I had a sort of crisis of faith. As I was reading about the practices and beliefs of the church fathers, I felt like they were not Christian, that I wanted to convert them to christ. I knew something was wrong with that impulse. I mean, I’m standing on their shoulders, I wouldn’t be here believing in Jesus w/o them. I felt like I needed to rethink what I believed and what I was teaching…this is the moment I really became a learner and voracious student of the word of god. The tension this book created has transformed me from living in a place of closed minded expert to being a genuine listener and seeker of what is true.

I have never resolved the tension this experience created. I have never come to another place of certainty about god, life, or what’s best for everyone else, but have rather learned how to live in a place of tension, of faith, and openness.

I have discovered that its actually in the tension that we are transformed, that without the tension, we are stagnant and our hearts becomes hard. Following Jesus to the cross is actually living in and being transformed by the tension.

Last summer I attempted to put this idea into words through a couple of poetic phrases. The first deals with the emotion of tension and the second, the posture I now seek to live in both as a learner and teacher:

Tormented on the inside, I try to reconcile
Desire for achievement and the path of self denial
You put this tension in me, I long for resolution
What after end? There’s only dissolution.

We do not seek to force an agenda,
but live in hope that all would surrender,
to the possibility of revelation, that would transcend definition,
change our opinion, disrupt orientation, transform our living.

Choosing Matthias…

Read Acts Chapter 1:15-26

I remember in elementary school the process for choosing the playground kickball or football teams…

It was always a way that guys established the hierarchical chain of strength.

You either walk right in and assert yourself as captain, look to be the first one picked for the team, or wait anxiously, hoping you’re not the last one picked, or god forbid that the dominant team, when it comes down to you being the last one waiting to picked says, “ah, just go on the other team, we’ve got enough players…”

Not getting picked stinks doesn’t it. No matter how old you are or what inspires the exclusion, it always makes you feel low…

Consider your own experiences of being excluded…What created the exclusion?

I think the process the disciples use to make what had to have felt like one of the most important decisions of their lives, a decision that would have long term influence on them and the whole Jesus movement, reveals both how ridiculously practical and unsensational it should be to make decisions, yet also how important it is to leave room for the infinite wisdom of God in the process.

It seems clear to me that the disciples were aware of their limits in a way that maybe we miss as participants in a hyper-rational, efficiency driven, democratic culture.

It’s easy to take what we know about god, lists of scriptures and examples of how god has acted in the past and lock god in a box, thinking we can reason out with certainty what God wants…

We might try to make a godly decision by charting out the qualifications of elders, deacons and overseers, ranking the individuals on their character, and if they meet the qualifications. We might have the nominees take a personality test, spiritual gift test, strength test and demonstrate their ability to speak creatively and hold the attention of the crowd, or how well they seem to be able to organize and manage an event. We might observe in their lives how well each reveals the fruit of the spirit…

So many of these tests, charts and forms are trying to make intangible, subjective qualities more tangible and rational…

And to all of that, I think this story says yes, yes. But that’s still not the end of the depiction. Yes, it is ridiculously practical, the apostles did make a list of what qualities they were looking for. It had to be someone who had been with them and Jesus from johns baptism through the resurrection… That pretty much narrowed the potential nominees down. It’s not exactly clear if there were more folks than Justus and matthias or not. I think so. I think the group did come to some form of consensus about these two guys before leaving it in the hand of god…

There’s a grace and humility about what the apostles did here. This story recognizes our role in thinking strategically through our resources and experiences, yet also recognizes that in wisdom, god knows things we do not.

In this place of humble recognition of the sovereignty of God and the limitations of our logic, competition, pride, disappointment, hurt, playing favorite and creating factions is all diffused.

(Honestly, this story makes me wonder if it isn’t the very nature of a democratic society to inspire factions and polarization in the community… I mean, what would have happened to this young community if they had made the decision by some form of vote? Would a few folks start trying to convince the rest of the group why their guy would be best? Would people start basing their opinion on how the choice might help them as individuals rather than on how it would benefit the community? Would Justus have felt betrayed and pull his supporters together to create a new movement?)

Awareness and trust in the present, active spirit of god reveals the weakness of the efficiency story we are enmeshed in… We seek to make the best possible choice, the most cost effective that adds the most possible value, the choice that looks strong and obvious. But like all of David’s brothers who looked much more fit to be anointed as the next king, when Samuel went down the list of Jessie’s sons, our best understanding might not see something in the heart of young shepherd…

On the flip side, even the leaving room for God was ridiculously simple and practical. it was just drawing straws… It wasn’t all super spiritual? They weren’t looking for the stars to be aligned, they didn’t get everyone worked up singing and prophesying, it really wasn’t emotional at all. They didn’t go off on a retreat or fast for a week, they didn’t ask god to place a tongue of fire on one of the mens shoulder as a sign… It was just a short straw…something that was clearly out of their ability to control, yet not so out of control that it was actually a form of manipulating god…of trying to force god into a sensational no one could ever deny that this was an act of god miracle…so no one could ever doubt or have to live into the decision on faith…

What are we looking for when we imagine God speaking?

Do we relegating God to exceptional circumstances?

Do we make decisions as though Gods work and involvement happened in the past and it’s all in our logical, hands until we get to heaven?

Or, do our lives and the way we make decisions reveal a simple confident faith that God is present and active in everything…

A final observation I find in this story is the way that it seems to be focused around the idea of Defining roles, & clarifying expectations for individuals and the community.

There seems to be an understand that about 120 people were committed to the community, that they needed someone to replace Judas for a particular role, that they had a responsibility to pass on the story and life of Jesus, and that in that culture, it was important that the original teachers were eye witnesses to the life and resurrection of Jesus.

A few chapters later, in Acts 6:1-7, the group, because of a complaint and growing community, has to redefine and invent a role in order to best fulfill the ministry they were called to.

In all of this, it also seems to me that the community has a sense of who they are, what resources they have available, and what important tasks and roles they are called to…

To that end, Fusion has decided to introduce an annual community agreement that we hope will help us establish a sense of shared expectations, awareness of the resources we have as a community, and how participants might like to be involved.

From the start, we have intentionally avoided the idea of church membership, because in our experience it seemed like it was focused on making a commitment to an organization rather than a group of people and second because it often seemed to function as a way people define who is in and out with God.

Our hope is that participants in Fusion will find this to be a helpful way for us to be intentional about community and that the annual agreement will create space for us to reflect on what it means to be committed to one another and to living more faithfully into our shared directions and personal callings.

Sharing Paper

So Mike and I were in Staples the other day picking up some paper. It was $10 for a ream of inkjet paper. Quite exorbitant I thought. However, there was a buy two cases get one free deal going on. So we could have gotten paper for basically $5/ream if we bought in bulk. Even though I go through a good amount of paper, I wouldn’t use 7500 pages for a while. And I didn’t have $80 to throw at the deal. This got Mike and I thinking/talking about the direction of our sharing vision…. I mean, how much paper do we all use? Wouldn’t it be beneficial for all of us if we could get good paper, perhaps paper made with recycled content for less than any of us would pay for the cheapest paper in the store? If Fusion had $80 in the bank, I think I would have picked up the 3 cases then and there.

How many other things could we save on if we started thinking in this way as a community?

How would we make decisions on what we would join in on?

How would we do this in a way that was not simply buying into an exchange of goods for cash retail system, picking and choosing the items we as individuals want and paying specifically for those, but instead operated on the principles of giving, receiving, and sharing in a way that benefits the common good of the community?

Science and Genesis

I think we’ve been pressing into some of the implications of these ideas in our gatherings this semester. Think Veritas Forum and our What is the Bible discussions…Wish I would have known about this video. It would have been a great intro. BTW, isn’t it great that some of the greatest scholars and theologians of our time are using youtube to communicate!

Link

The Flight From Conversation – NY Times.com

So we read through this article up to this quote on Sunday, “Connecting in sips may work for gathering discrete bits of information or for saying, “I am thinking about you.” Or even for saying, “I love you.” But connecting in sips doesn’t work as well when it comes to understanding and knowing one another. In conversation we tend to one another. (The word itself is kinetic; it’s derived from words that mean to move, together.) We can attend to tone and nuance. In conversation, we are called upon to see things from another’s point of view.”

With I hope, love and respect, I shared that this, connecting in sips, and as was earlier  talked about in the article, connecting, but not actually talking or knowing is the danger of  performance, stage driven church gatherings; creating space where a bunch of people can do the same thing at the same time and feel connected, but actually remain individuals alone in their own ‘cock pits’. Creating a space that helps draw us out of loneliness and consumptive spirituality is very important to Fusion. God help us learn genuine hospitality…

Talking, Doing, Serving

Following todays conversation initiated by Mike, who drew our attention to a passage of scripture where Jesus, we are told, emptied himself, vs grasping for equality with God, in order to be a servant…I wanted to reflect a bit about serving.

I’ve had a couple of conversations recently where guys have told me they really want to be a part of a community that does something. That acts, and serves rather than just sits around talking. “Thank God!”, because there is a serious lot of work to be done. I think, however, that there is an assumption in those comments that we are not yet, ‘doing’ anything.

The funny thing is that even now, we have more physically active needs left undone, than done. And that’s to say nothing of the service of active love that goes on within relationships every time we gather throughout the week.

I wonder, what constitutes serving?

Is it building cabinets, planting a garden, salting a driveway, vacuuming a rug, washing dishes, caring for the needs of others? Chopping wood?

Is it inspiring a group of guys to develop character? Leading PT and practicing Karate? Making food, teaching a beginner how to cook? Mentoring, helping someone develop a budget so they can live within their means? Is it being present and willing to listen as another person works out a thought or idea until they are confident to move forward in one or another direction? Is it sharing experience gained?

Is service learning about economic, political, and social trends surrounding injustice and suffering so that actions taken better bring the peace and care of God into the world?

Is it praying, forgiving, encouraging, cleaning? Practicing english with a friend who is just learning the language? Organizing events that bring people together across divides? Is it getting on the floor with a child? Telling stories, asking questions, initiating a hunger for God and what is true? Is it sitting and mourning with someone who is grieving? Sharing resources that enable others to thrive? Is it giving enough time to know what that need is?

I wonder if it’s possible to sum up serving in a to do list, or if what we really need is to become a community that is available with a serving heart ready to fill whatever need arises, no matter how great or small, with thoughtful love? And when it comes to the action list, I think only our imagination and commitment of time are in the way of ‘doing’ things.