Not too long after we finished the “Essentials” seminar at Ashland – which emphasizes that one of the components of healing is “community” – my wife and I had the opportunity for a little vacation to Columbus, Ohio. Before we headed home we decided to make a stop at the Ohio Historical Center, just to look around. I was completely dumbfounded by this exhibit of quilts done by residents at the Ohio Asylum for the Insane in Athens, Ohio in the mid-1900s. These remarkable works of art and craftsmanship – done as part of the physical therapy program and then given to other residents – exhibit a beautiful mix of healing components that we as caregivers might well consider in our own ministries:
gathering into small groups (since it is well-known that it is difficult to quilt alone);
working on some project together keeps the hands (and maybe the left brain?) busy, leaving the right brain free to talk with others (and it’s also well-known that quilting in a group is not a silent activity!)
working on a project together might give participants a sense of working toward a visible, tangible goal
the idea that the quilt would be given to another resident might make the project and the effort seem all the more worthwhile, and result in a sense of accomplishment but also a greater sense of well-being among the recipients: “We not only did something together, we did something good together for someone else!”
What other healing factors might you notice about a project like this? Is there a way you could encourage this kind of project more often in your ministry?
March 23, 2014 at Christ the King Lutheran Church. Based on a devotion I did at the Formational Prayer “Essentials” seminar the previous day.
If we resemble Jesus enough to allow the woman of ill repute to break the bottle of perfume at His feet (Luke 7:36-50), soon others like her will be lined up around the block, each bearing their own bottle of perfume to break as they cry their hearts out for gratitude at the mercy of Jesus we are showing them.
If we are instead like the Pharisees who are around Jesus trying to prevent the woman from approaching Him and breaking the bottle, others who may have brought their own bottles to break will learn that they will be shamed if they do so. They will keep those bottles hidden and, perhaps, stop coming altogether.
If we receive the broken and the breakers, the wounded and the wounders into the church with the mercy of Jesus, soon word will get out and others will come bearing their own sins and wounds and brokenness, knowing that here is a place where they can receive healing and forgiveness.
If we insist on public shaming of the broken and the breakers, public condemnation of church leaders who “fall” or “fail,” soon word will get out and others who have their own sins and wounds and brokenness will learn to keep their sins and wounds and brokenness to themselves. The church will not be a safe place for them to be, and eventually, perhaps, they will stop coming altogether.
Terry Wardle talks about DUCK theology and DANCE theology.
DUCK theology goes like this:
- God is angry because we have sinned.
- God’s holiness compels Him to pour out His wrath on us; i.e., God is against us.
- Jesus comes to stand in the way of God’s wrath and to absorb it all like a lighting rod.
In other words,
- you are Damned,
- you are Unloved,
- you are Corrupt, and
- God wants to Kick you to the curb (= DUCK).
Then He asked the question, “Or was the coming of Christ aimed at us, the great gift from the Father given to destroy everything that stands in the way of entering the fullness of His love and embrace?”
This is DANCE theology. In other words,
Jesus comes to the cross so that we can fully enter the love of God that we could never enter on our own. That is,
- He Delights in you,
- He Adores you and accepts you,
- He wants to Nurture you,
- He Cherishes you,
- He wants to Encourage and Embrace you and Extend to you the treasures of His kingdom (=DANCE).
So it occurred to me that DANCE theology is when Jesus says to the woman at the well, “I will give you so much living water that you will never thirst again,” whereas DUCK theology is when God says to Noah “I will give the world so much water it will drown the earth.” People get stuck on the “cruelty of God” when they hear the Noah story and some other Old Testament stories, and maybe it’s because they are DUCK theologians even if they claim not to believe in God. Whereas the book of Hebrews tells us that now that Jesus has come, everything that God has said in the past is to be filtered and understood through His Son Jesus – and His conversation in John 4 about water is clearly shot through with DANCE theology.
And a further implication of His DANCE theology is that when He and the woman uncover her marital history His offer of living water still stands!
Here’s a portion of Mark 10:13-16 NIV
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
A familiar story, no doubt. Loving parents want Jesus to bless their children. Disciples (protective? businesslike? efficient?) try to stop them. Jesus intervenes – “The Kingdom of God belongs to ‘such as these’” and proceeds to bless them.
So what might Jesus mean by “such as these””? Such individuals? Such innocents? Such curiosity-seekers? Such trusters? Such little ones? People with small physical stature? People with limited education? I don’t know that there’s one answer. Perhaps He means some of all of these, and perhaps He means even more.
But as I read this Gospel today I wondered to what extent, if any, it might be possible to apply the words of Jesus to congregations. After all, some congregations are quite small in terms of membership or attendance, and sometimes this means that they seem to get pushed to the side by their judicatories, publishing houses, or others. Not, of course, if they are mission plants where they are expected to start small and grow (lots of time and effort and attention is devoted to them); but certainly with congregations that have remained at a “small” size for some time or that have once been larger but have grown smaller over time.
So in what ways are these congregations like the children in this Gospel lesson? In what ways are they treated like the disciples treat the children – and who takes on the “role” of the disciples for these churches? And how are they among the “such as these” children that Jesus speaks of?
I’m not sure I have all the answers to these – maybe some of you do – but I’m pretty sure that this needs to be said: the Kingdom of God would be incomplete and unfinished without children, and the Kingdom of God would be incomplete and unfinished without these Indispensable Churches.
I’m always gritting my teeth when I’m reading and hearing people talking about the Church as “an organization” or suggesting that we need to “run it like a business.” I have a hard time seeing that model in Scripture. We’re so fascinated by the “success” models of American business that we think we have to see them in the Church, too – everything from “the pursuit of excellence” to “best practices” and beyond.
But the model of the Church that I see time and again in Scripture is the Church as the Bride of Christ. I’ve written on this before, and probably will do so again. But here it is from a different source. Bearing in mind that of course the Pope is going to understand / equate the Church with the Roman Catholic Church, he is still right on target in reminding us that there is more to the Church than spreadsheets and bottom lines.
Pope Francis: The Church is a Love Story.