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Upside Down Kingdom

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“... whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:43-45

“But Mindy, that doesn’t make any sense!”  That has been a pretty common response by the children during our recent Village Sunday School lessons where we’ve been studying the Gospel of Mark over the past several weeks.  And my answer to that is always, “I know!  It really doesn’t make sense, does it?”  And that’s the thing about Jesus.  He always surprised people by flipping things upside down.  It didn’t make sense to us.   In story after story in the Bible, we read about Jesus creating a world where the marginalized are seen and valued, where we are to welcome the stranger, and where the first shall become last. 

Now, as the season of Advent approaches, we are reminded that in a world where the rich had power and the poor did not, God sent Jesus, the King.  He was born as a poor, brown-skinned baby in the Middle East.  He began his humble life on earth already flipping the system upside down. 

Today, in 2018, we still live in a world in need of a God who flips things upside down, who places power in love and humility rather than in strength and riches.  What does that look like?  Perhaps it means listening to, learning from and giving value to the voices of our own children.  Maybe it also means listening to, learning from and giving value to the voices of children who are seeking asylum with their families on the other side of the U.S. border.  I think it also means choosing to see our transgender brothers, sisters and siblings who are scared and tired and listening to them with compassion.  And what about the NFL players who are kneeling during the national anthem?  Yes, let us take the time to listen to their truth behind why they are kneeling.  Even if it feels uncomfortable… especially if it feels uncomfortable… let’s start by listening. 

 As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, The One who flipped things upside down by giving value to the most vulnerable, let us open our eyes and ears and begin by listening to their voices.

Friends, what does flipping things upside down look like to you? 

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Being a Peacemaker

“Being a peacemaker means my prayer becomes visible in concrete action.”  -Father John Dear

For much of the past year, I have felt God leading me deeper into what it means to be a peacemaker in our community, and more specifically what peacemaking looks like in the world of children’s ministry. A year ago, I had the opportunity to participate in an Immigrants’ Journey Immersion Trip to the San Diego/Tijuana border under the leadership of Jon Huckins of The Global Immersion Project. The focus of this experience was “everyday peacemaking” through the lens of immigration. (To hear more about that experience, please click here.) Then in February of this year, I attended a conference at the University of San Diego titled “Revolution of the Heart: The Counter-Cultural Spirituality of Henri Nouwen.”

Henri Nouwen was a beloved Catholic Priest, professor, theologian, author and peacemaker with a heart for social justice. He had very profound relationships with many people throughout his life, one of them being Father John Dear, a priest, author and social activist. Father John Dear was one of the speakers at the Revolution of the Heart conference, and what he shared aligned beautifully with Henri Nouwen’s practices of peacemaking. That is, there are three spiritual movements in the revolution of the heart regarding peacemaking. First is the Inner Revolution of the Heart, which begins with prayer. We must allow God to disarm us as we pray, followed by us having mercy on ourselves, so that we can go forward as public peacemakers. The second spiritual movement is the Public Life of the Heart, which involves revolutionary nonviolence. The third spiritual movement is Working for a New Culture of the Heart. This is the Kingdom of God here on earth.

In other words, peacemaking involves prayerfully stepping outside of our own safety and comfort, often at the most inconvenient times. Shane Claiborne, a prominent peacemaker and social justice advocate, was another speaker at the Revolution of the Heart conference. He pointed out that we can’t anticipate the interruptions that require peace. A quick peek at the life of Jesus makes that quite clear… the good Samaritan… running out of wine at a wedding… Jairus’ daughter needing healing… Shane said, “The Spirit moves in the interruptions, and we often have no room for the interruptions.”

Friends, let us begin by praying for open eyes, ears and hearts so that we may recognize these interruptions as opportunities for peacemaking, whether it be in our world, nation, community, work environment, family, church. Through our prayers, we will be centered in the holy will of God, and not just in our own feelings of anger or fear. Out of our prayers, may God move us to action.

Mindy Plick

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