I remember the Glory Days of Facebook (circa 2006-2008) before the countless cat pictures, pointless memes, and seemingly-deep-but-really-astoundingly-shallow-and-amazingly-annoying-political-pontifications that clog my timeline. Having 2000+ Facebook friends makes it very difficult to manage the senselessness that daily floods my timeline. That’s just the way Facebook is.
But, every now and then, something breaks through the humdrum of Facebook. This morning chronicled one of those times. In the midst of my “sharing spree” I came across a video. Now, to be fair, the internet has jaded me when it comes to 95% of religious posts – everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. The “Share this or you won’t get into heaven” or the quintessentially melodramatic “If you don’t share this picture of a dying child you hate Jesus” have caused me to gloss over the vast majority of religiously affiliated Facebook posts. But this particular post got my attention.
There is a real reason why this post got my attention. The eight months that I spent with the Church of the Common Ground, an Ekklesia Community in Atlanta, has created an especially sensitive place in my heart for those who are homeless. The sensitivity is not a belittling pity or a false sympathy; rather, it’s a feeling of admiration and humility. You see, when I first showed up to the Trinity St. storefront location of the Church of the Common Ground, I arrived with the pompous, self-righteous mindset of the typical seminarian – that I was going to do great ministry there, that I was going to change lives, that I was going to fix them. When I left them eight months later I am not sure to what degree I had accomplished any of that. I am certain of this – it was me who was ministered to, it was my life that was changed, it was my broken and horribly distorted worldview that was fixed.
Worshiping in Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta every Sunday, rain or shine, has a way of changing you. Singing hymns and worship songs while emergency sirens whirl past you or while two people walk past screaming loud obscenities at one another has a way of altering your worldview. Sharing the body and blood of Christ with people who are never really sure where their next meal will come from has a way of putting it all in perspective. Praying with women and men who have a deeply profound spirituality has a way of deepening your own connection to God.
The deepened spirituality is what I was reminded of when I watched the video that showcased an impromptu breaking in of the Reign of God. That is exactly what happened, you know. Carlos Whittaker went to that park with one agenda, but God clearly had other plans. He met a man named Danny
whose song whose prayer transcended mere words. Right there, in that park, in the divine synergy of an acoustic guitar and reggae, God was worshiped, and as I watched that scene unfolding, my soul was filled.
Last night I had the opportunity to speak to St. Andrew’s chapter of the Order of St. Luke, a healing-prayer ministry. The conversation eventually steered towards the topic of living a life of prayer. A life of prayer isn’t restricted to monks, nuns, priests, or other “professionally religious people.” A life of prayer is one that is constantly and intentionally open to the presence of God. A life or prayer is a life that is tuned to the incredibly spiritual world we inhabit. A life of prayer is one that is always searching for the next moment like this moment in the park, moments that illustrate the reality that the “Kingdom of God had come near.”
I believe a life of prayer is where the Church is moving. Perhaps what people are saying by not coming to Church is that there is a dimension of spirituality and divine connection that exists outside of the traditional Sunday morning “drive-by.” Perhaps people are coming to understand a hard truth – that the Church does not have a monopoly on God. Perhaps a more wholistic worldview is killing the traditional, bifurcated cosmological model of Church. If that’s the case, then I say “so be it.” Making spiritual and social connections in a coffeehouse while sipping an Ethiopian pour-over, listening to Janelle Monae over the low-hum of conversations punctuated by the “whirrrrrrrrrrr” of coffeegrinders, maybe that’s the breaking in of the Reign of God. I’m not saying it is. I’m just saying that it’s a possibility. Danny’s song showed me that God can break in anywhere. All that is required is a willing and humble spirit.
Despite my bubbly, effervescent, optimistic, and positive personality, I admit that often I am overwhelmed by the incredible cynicism of our world. For once, I am glad that I was able to transcend that cynicism to hear the songs of angels “One Jah, One Creator, One Father…”
Keep the faith, and make it colorful!