Thursday, October 28, 2010

Community vs. Competition

It's a theme that keeps surfacing in ministry for me. It started out as an affront to my idealistic just-out-of-seminary, if-they-only-knew-what-I-knew self that came in to my first appointment and preached all about community and reconciliation and the good news and the kingdom/kin-dom of God.

And then we had a contentious election (remember 2000?) and the World Trade Center/Pentagon bombing took place and we went into military action and we were angry. Angry at the French (freedom fries? really?), angry at those who had perpetrated such actions. We, of course, also got to be angry at the dot coms for having a bubble to burst. And then we got to be angry at the other political party. Now we're just angry. Angry angry angry. At undocumented workers. At the health care industry. At Congress. At our neighbors.

Through it all, I kept having this vision of community in front of me. Kept bringing it up. And I think what happened over time is that it got less and less believable. I couldn't think of why except that it's hard to be in community with people with whom we are angry.

But anger isn't the root, I don't think. I've seen anger dissipate *because* of community.

No--today as I was assessing relationships within the community I serve, it occurred to me that there is intense competition here. Competition for scarce resources. Competition for power. Competition for position. Competition for members. Competition for status.

And it's not healthy competition--not the kind of competition that helps each person get more faithfully...see the kingdom more clearly.

Then again, I wonder if any competition can be truly healthy. Because any competition I think eventually breaks down community. Think about how rival towns get in the World Series. I admit that in the last week, I've thought a few not-so-nice things about the New York Yankees.

It's not healthy for me. It's not healthy for me to want to win so badly that I think someone else has to lose. It's not healthy for me to sit and compare compare compare myself to other human beings--to their salaries, to their work ethic, to their body types or their church sizes.

It breaks down community at every level if I can't wish the best, most faithful and healthy situation for every church around me. It breaks down community at every level if I can't wish the best, most faithful and healthy situation for every member of my congregation or staff...or every person living in the neighborhood around me or for the state I live in or the neighboring states (hello--every governor is so proud of the "jobs created" when they are really most likely taken from somewhere else...) or even the neighboring countries.

It has to be more than me "winning". It has to be me opting out of games in order to follow Jesus.

So tonight, when I go into Administrative Board, I wonder if I will recognize the game in time...and instead of agreeing to referee...I wonder if I will be able to say, "Let's be among our community as those who serve. Not as those who wield power and authority. But those who serve." Let the games...end.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


One of my best friends from seminary got engaged last week. My joy for her is overflowing and inescapable, as I find myself thinking about her even more than I had been recently. Congrats Becky and Jeff from yet another venue!!

Part of it is that I kinda knew it was coming, as I had gotten to see her in person a couple of weeks ago, and she said that her relationship had moved to this point. I bounced and then tried to contain contain contain because I ended up seeing a bunch of our mutual friends the next week in various parts of the country. I didn't want *her* secret to overflow or even come close to being hinted at since it was her joy and her love and her wonderful news to tell.

But now that it's out, I find myself thinking about the joy of the upcoming months and the joy and change and work of the upcoming years.

Now don't get me wrong--Becky would have had joy in her life whether or not their was a husband. But when I was dating and getting married, it was Becky who asked all the right questions of me and my boyfriend, then fiancee, then husband. She asked how he helped me to live better...more fully...more faithfully. And then she turned around and asked the same question of him.

When I asked her those same questions a couple of weeks ago, she gave me wise answers, as if these questions had always been on her mind as well. That's Becky--always wanting to live more fully and help others to do the same. We've both gotten off track from that in our lives at times, but somehow...either through our relationship or our relationships with others...we've gotten back to it.

So this song has been going through my mind...both because I think of Becky whenever I have heard it, and now...more so.

the city wears a veil of grey
but the children they still play in a major key
we all have the same day
they just go about theirs a little more deliciously

the honeymooners play a part
of roll and tumble and don’t-forget-to-breathe
we all have the same heart
they just love with theirs a little more deliciously

deliciously the sun sets in the sky
and licoricely it splashes in my eyes
silly old me i watch the days go by
and i never know why but they keep the beat

the poet’s throat is full of birds
he tosses thoughts up in the air effortlessly
we all know the same words
he just uses his a little more deliciously

the dancers move in subtle tones
they sweep across the floor so gracefully
we all have the same bones
they just move in theirs a little more deliciously

Becky and Jeff...may you always keep the heartbeat of God's Grace in you...deliciously.