Well, a lot has changed since I wrote last. I decided to move to a new blog and a new look for the blog, as well as a new title. When I first conceived of doing a blog, I was taken with the idea of developing a virtual “outpost for the heart” as inspired by the story of St. Columba and his friends as they set off away from his beloved Ireland in search of a place to plant a “heavenly community.” Ironically, the original motivation for him to set sail was to impose a self-punishment for his responsibility in the death of many of his kinsmen as they attempted to place him in his rightful place of royalty in Ireland. He was so chagrined and seized by shame because of his prideful actions, he decided to exile himself from his beloved Ireland. He eventually landed on an island called Iona and it became an “outpost for the heart.” There he and his mates created a little community, and eventually from Iona his disciples set off into northern England to evangelize the countryside by establishing what he called “heavenly communities” into which people could come to find rest, safety from the terrors of the land around them, and a peace that only Christ could give. It was this story that inspired my initial stirrings of a ministry that I called “The Iona Project.” Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending how you look at it) God had other ideas, and the ministry died a somewhat painful death. Along with that death, a little(maybe a pretty big piece) of my heart died, and I lost hope of ever doing ministry again in any capacity. The ministry died, but the vision for a community of people who could live life dangerously, redemptively never really left my heart.
Yet, here I am and I will forgo the details to fast forward to today. There appears to be another stirring of a small community people on CCU’s campus who long to live in real time with one another. A community of people who are committed to shedding the appearances of “doing okay” or “How are you doing? Fine!” way of doing life. They all long for a place where they are safe to bring into the open the things that they are sure would get them condemned anywhere else. As a matter fact, many of these people are already condemned in their own hearts, and simply can’t believe that if they revealed this to anyone else, they would only be condemned in public. It is against all hope, and against all reason that they would find grace, hope, and truth. At least, that’s what they believed (past tense). For many already, they are experiencing grace in a way that they never really thought was possible. In spite of all their confusion, doubt, skepticism, disappointment, disillusionment, joy, happiness, exhilaration, despair, all of what they only whisper and hide, they have found acceptance and grace. The kind of acceptance and grace that not only sets one free, but empowers one to live more fully the life he or she was called to live. The abundant life that Jesus promised.
This is what I am calling a dangerous community. It is dangerous in the sense that it threatens our usual way of doing things. It threatens our spiritual status quo, and challenges us to lock arms and learn to live courageously committed to the truth while clinging to grace. It is a messy undertaking, and it rarely provides the answers we are looking for. But, this undertaking, this endeavor against all odds does provide us with the kind of community that strengthens us to hang on to our firm and unrelenting belief that God is not only good, but also good enough for our circumstances even if it doesn’t feel that way. In a dangerous community we must face ourselves in truth, in brutal and unvarnished truth not to condemn ourselves, but to catch a vision for what Jesus is forming in us. And, if we can’t see it for ourselves, we can be assured that there are others around us who will hang on to the vision and hope while we wrestle with our “demons,” cheering us on and encouraging us to continue the fight even if it feels hopeless.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I want this kind of community. I don’t want a community of people that encourages me to maintain the status quo. I desire to live on an edge that will challenge me to go deeper, and grow stronger even while sometimes teetering on the brink of disaster and despair. Will I fall? Maybe. No, probably. Yet, in a community like this, I will have those who will cheer at fact that I have “come back,” rather than point out that I fell. They realize that I really don’t need any help to criticize and condemn myself for my shortcomings. However, I do need help hanging on to the amazing grace that will empower me to get up, brush myself off, lick my wounds, and slowly try again.
Here’s the vision for such a dangerous community stated by one of the visionaries (of all places) that developed Alcoholics Anonymous:
There are, I should say, four elements in a redemptive community. It is personal, with things happening between people as well as to and in them individually; it is compassionate, always eager to help, observant but non judgmental toward others, breathing out hope and concern; it is creative, with imagination about each one in the group and its work as a whole, watching for authentic new vision coming from any of them; and it is expectant, always seeking to offer to God open and believing hearts and minds through which He can work out His will, either in the sometimes startling miracles He gives or in steady purpose through long stretches where there is no special “opening.” It may fairly be said that unless one enmeshes himself in this “redemptive fellowship” of the church, he lessens his chances of steady growth and effectiveness, in his Christian life and experience. – Sam Shoemaker, Experiment of Faith
Personal… compassionate… creative… expectant. Now, that’s a dangerous community. You in? I am!