Beloved St. John’s community,

During the sermon discussion, noonday prayer and coffee hour, those who attend have been doing a short check in every day about how we actually are. Not how we wish we were. Not how we think others expect us to be. But how we actually are. Here are some of the words that have come up over and over again: exhausted. afraid. cranky. paradoxically, kind of glad to get to stay home.

It’s vulnerable to be honest with each other. It’s also an important part of navigating this time of extraordinary change together. Our beloved St. John’s church community is committed to an authentic exploration of life as it actually is, and how God lovingly meets us as we actually are. Our faith journey, spiritual practices in the Way of Love, and all that we do together must address the real struggles and circumstances we find ourselves in.

So people have been sharing some real stuff. How the news deeply troubles us. How much we love (or hate) getting to / having to stay at home. How in the world we’re supposed to be the Beloved Community with the people in the country who seem to be living in a different universe than the one we’re living in. How we’re not cleaning our house even though we finally have time to do so.

We’ve also been sharing some extraordinary moments of real joy and play that are happening right now. How we are seeing creativity pop up all over the place. Chad Smith, our wonderful Music Minister who freely admits that he hates change, has been having a blast creating music videos that capture the spirit and heart of St. John’s and our faith in authentic new ways.  Steve Schewe and Jay Hornbacher are co-creating something called “Offerings from Exile” that will offer St. John’s folks a creative outlet for wrestling with our real experiences in the context of our faith — stay tuned! In staff meetings, we’ve been discovering deep joy in our differences—different gifts and temperaments—sensing that we each bring a piece of the puzzle about how we will walk together into this wilderness.

My friends, I sense God inviting us, as a community, to two things:

(1) appropriate vulnerability and
(2) play.

On the vulnerability side, we aren’t going to be able to embrace the new unless we can really, honestly lament our losses and name our fears. So on Ascension Sunday, May 24, we are going to focus on how uncannily relevant the disciples’ experience feels to us—what they felt when Jesus ascended into heaven (or seemed to leave them, again).  On the play side, there is just no way we can plan more than six weeks out right now. We don’t know what will “work” or not work. We don’t know where the Spirit is leading us. So we need to listen, pray, experiment, and adjust. In other words, we can play!

In the coming weeks, you’ll be hearing more about both things in the life of St. John’s: honest vulnerability, and also play and experimentation. Meanwhile, consider how God might be nudging you in both directions in your own life. How can you connect with loving vulnerability with the people in your life, with yourself, and with God? And in all the ways you are having to re-invent your life—your work, home life, relationship with God and self and church and everything else—might you see some creative possibility rising up that you can just play with?

This is how God meets us: as our mission statement says, in the joy and pain of life’s passages. In the end, what we do at St. John’s is intended to refresh and renew us to live the Way of Jesus Monday – Saturday. In other words, to have the strength and courage to pursue a lifestyle that has love, inclusivity, healing, and justice at the heart of it. Let’s follow the Spirit into the wilderness together, knowing that this remains our purpose, and focus on deepening our ability to struggle, celebrate, and play together.

Faithfully,
Lisa