10 Nov What Are You Revealing?
The bible characters are often valorized. They are stripped of their foibles, and deodorized of any taint of scandal. Take Joseph for example: His name meant “God gives more”. And if his name was supposed to be an indicator of his life experience when he was a teenager then it was an unfortunate choice. He was born in his great-uncle’s house in a foreign land according to his father, at his birth he already had ten half-brothers and one half-sister, he had four different ladies that called themselves his mother. The first time he met some of his cousins he believed they were coming to kill him and his family. His oldest brother slept with one of his father’s wives and another brother slept with his own daughter-in-law. Two of his brothers were murderers before the age of 18.
It’s easy to study, talk and preach about Joseph, but imagine if Joseph walked into Volunteer Park Church as a young adult, and recounted his story to us. Would we have the capacity to take him in? Or what if Joseph came to visit us on parole after spending time incarcerated, with the scarlet letter of ‘felon’ dragging behind him?
We tend to have romanticized notions of “community.” But community is, for the most part, hard, uncomfortable and irritating. Community often means sitting around a table after church, with people you wouldn’t otherwise talk, when you’d rather be someplace else. It means welcoming the Joseph’s whose past is stained with bad decisions and trauma, but whose future is open to the gracious work of God. Community often means sharing life with people who are damaged in various ways. The reality is, there are so many people in the world who are hard to like, let alone love–through their own fault or no fault of their own–and community means loving these people.
The irony is, when we consider our often inadequate response to people who are profoundly othered, it reveals more about us, than it does about them. It is a mirror to our fear, indifference and hesitation. Let’s not romanticize the tediousness, sacrifice, and irritation of building community. Or underestimate the sin that community will expose in your own hearts. The Kingdom of God, as expressed at Volunteer Park Church, is all the wrong people working hard to love each other.