by glen edward quiring
In the drama of God's activity (Recorded in Acts 15) we discover that Barsabbas and Silas receive a letter from Jerusalem fro delivery to the new communities in Christ Jesus. In this letter, the elders of the Jerusalem church announce a process whereby new faithers can be considered full members of the faith community.
I have long understood that this process defined new terms under which such new communities exist. A new charter, so to speak, that validates their relationship to more historic communities.
As I sat under the tree in my backyard this morning, I realized that if this is a charter, it is a charter about a process of inclusion, not the conditional terms of inclusion. In short, it is not about a new kind of community. It is about a kind of renewal that God in Christ creates.
The beautiful Camphor (just mentioned) is constantly shedding twigs and leaves. As I started cleaning up its mess (I hadn't raked for many years) I became frustrated as I realized cleaning up this mess will be a constant chore. And then, all I at once it dawned on me, that it is precisely the shedding of twigs and leaves that creates the way for new growth. To grow, the tree must shed (There is probably a good science lesson here).
But I also realized something else.
For some reason I am repeatedly inclined to take off my shoes when I sit under the tree. Sure, I appreciate playing in the dirt with my bare feet. But more importantly, I realized that this tree represents the kind of renewal that God values. When I enter that space, I remove my shoes which, for me, honors that space because of the value lesson it continually teaches me; that renewal is the condition under which I live as a person of faith. This is truly holy ground.
I am reminded of that great story of Moses who removed his shoes when confronted with the Divine, the "I am", at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 3). Like Moses encounter, renewal is that place where I take my shoes off. Not unlike this tree, my life, beliefs, convictions, and passions, require shedding in order to be renewed. I require shedding in order to grow.
Interestingly, the Apostle Paul knew this. In a letter to the Galatians he loudly proclaims, "I have been crucified with Christ. . .it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." Paul shed his own skin and was renewed in Christ!
If we hearken back to Acts 15, we realize that the establishment of community is not very different from that which happened on Mt. Sinai. But we would be wrong to inscribe these values on new stones. Really, the call is to place it in our hearts and allow for a consistent renewal in our lives and in the lives of our faith communities.
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