Saturday, April 24, 2010

Jesus: "You Give Them Something to Eat!"

Late in the afternoon the twelve apostles came to Jesus and said, "Send the crowd to the villages and farms around here. They need to find a place to stay and something to eat. There is nothing in this place. It is like a desert!" Jesus answered, "You give them something to eat. (Luke 9:12-13)

Key quote from Shane Claiborne, talking about the "Feeding of the 5,000" miracle:

Claiborne - "The Disciples asked Jesus, 'How will they eat?' Jesus said, 'You feed them...'"

I really enjoyed yesterday morning's drive through downtown Tampa and on over the blue, blue water. I had my car roof open and all the windows down; the day was sun-soaked and clear; classic Florida; primed for the tourist-catalogs.

I was headed to "Missio Dei", a self-described "holistic, missional, Christian community" close to the center of St. Petersburg. Missio Dei is hosting their "A Sustainable Faith Conference" this weekend, and I showed up to report for the Florida Methodist News Service.

The sanctuary filled with eager conference participants -20's and 30's mostly (plus a smattering of interested boomers like me) - there t0 hear Shane Claiborne, one of their generation's leading voices. Claiborne is quintessential emergent: young, articulate, radical, brash, deeply committed to gospel.

The message engaged the heartbeat of an emerging voice within the church that increasingly rejects the values of a religious culture seemingly more interested in maintaining the status quo than living a cutting edge witness as passionate followers on The Way.

The conference title, A Sustainable Faith, subtly references both environmental stewardship and care for gospel; promoting a message with enough 21st Century credibility to emerge intact for the next generation; stewardship of both Earth and Good News.

I talked with Doug Pagitt, author of A Christianity Worth Believing, Journey Church pastor Danielle Shroyer (The Boundary Breaking God), pastor Joe Esposito of the Missio Dei Community, and members of the Immokalee Farm workers Coalition.

I learned about real-life slavery here in Florida, heard stories of Christ-directed lives effecting substantive social change, and witnessed the power of hope and encouragement as it settled on the hearts and minds of participants who realized the kind of difference they can make in their own homes, neighborhoods and communities of faith.

The most important work, of course, was accomplished in the conversations that emerged between people who had never met before, as they shared God's love together and encouraged one another. In the photo below right Danielle - who pastors the emergent Journey faith community in Dallas - is talking with a young Presbyterian pastor from the Tampa area.

The message we all shared was this: The Good News that Jesus introduced to the world 2,000 years ago is as fresh, vibrant, real, relevant, cutting edge and necessary as it was when a small group of Jesus followers first began to turn the world upside down with their message of hope and liberation.

But too many people still live in chains (and I'm not just talking about forced labor and the abuse of farm workers). Chains of our own making. Chains as a direct result of our unwillingness to claim the freedom offered by Jesus. Chains of lifestyle, debt, addiction, priorities..... and - yes - chains of constrictive religion.

More to think about - always - DEREK

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