I randomly found this video today. Brings back some memories. It is from December of 2008 at Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia. After being introduced at lunch, a bunch of folks wanted to get a tour of the veggie oil system on Big Buster. All of the sudden, a crowd of about 40 gathered around to listen to me talk. I vaguely remember one of them pulling out a flip video and start recording.
One year ago we were pulling back into our neighborhood on Baines Blvd. (‘m feeling a bit nostalgic right now.)
I remember looking at our house again through the side window of Big Buster. It was a surreal moment. When we left the neighborhood, we did not know that we would be back. We intended to sell our house, but God obviously had other plans.
We rolled up to 2492 once again, this time with friends waiting to welcome us home, rather than bidding good-bye. This time, with a newer perspective on what “home” really means. This time, pregnant with our fourth child. This time we returned to Baines Blvd. with a small, new, hint of a vision that involved a food pantry in the garage.
One year ago this week. I am amazed at what God has done. I praise you, Jesus, for setting our path and walking with us in every step!
We are now almost 7 weeks into this new Jubilee Food Pantry. We have no idea how long He will ask us to keep our house open, but we are in it for the long haul. Tuesdays will forever be a holy day here in this home.
Thank you all for following us and supporting us on this wild ride!
God calls us to seek justice.
In the scriptures, there are over 300 references to the poor and to justice, here are a couple:
I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy.
He will defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
he will crush the oppressor.
It is clear that God has a deep concern for the poor and how they should be treated. Sometimes, during lonely and dark times, I begin to have doubts about all of this. In the past I have asked myself questions like, “Should we really sell everything we own?” or “Are we doing any good driving around and loving on random people?” Recently I have asked myself questions like “Should we open our home to total strangers?” and “Do people think we are crazy?” But then I am filled with the unflinching knowledge that when we are standing in front of Jesus on the Day of Judgment He will not tell us that we loved people too much, or that we sought to bring peace and justice to our neighborhood too often. Seeking justice is close to the Lord’s heart.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
We might not be community organizers who are developing an action plan to impact our neighborhood. We have never taken part in a protest for human rights or against injustice. We have not organized people to put pressure on our legislators to improve some aspect of our lives. We have simply decided that we are going to treat those who the Lord puts in front of us with as much respect, dignity and love as we are possible of giving. We screw up – daily. We resist the individualistic suburban pull to go in our house and sit on our sofa and look at all of our things – and many times, we fail.
We have simply found that one of the most obvious, relevant and effective ways we can bring justice to our community is through food. In every culture throughout all of human history, food symbolizes something more than subsistence. Food symbolizes a bond, a connection between people from all over the world, regardless of culture or language. We can begin to break the chains of injustice that face so many people, even in our affluent country (although much less so), which is the scarcity of food. We can help by breaking the fear of where the next meal will come from, or if food will be available for a mother’s child next Tuesday.
The Year of the Jubilee (or the acceptable year of the Lord)
In Leviticus 25, God gives Moses instructions to pass along to the people of Israel. Every 7 years the people were to leave their fields fallow – to grow nothing, to give it complete rest. They were instructed to not store away any of the crops either. They were to eat, along with their servants, hired workers and immigrants, only “what the land produces.” They are told that if they do this, that God will bless them abundantly, providing enough crops for the next two seasons following the Sabbath year.
On the seventh Sabbath year, they were to proclaim the “acceptable year of the Lord,” or the Year of the Jubilee. The Jubilee was to be a year were debt was canceled, property was returned to the original owner, and slaves and prisoners were set free. “Temporary residents” and foreigners were to be treated like relatives, the poor were to be embraced and loved as brothers and sisters.
This was God’s way of hitting the reset button on injustices that had been created and exploited.
Good News for the Oppressed
There is a great amount of evidence that suggests that the people of Israel actually followed the Sabbath Year. Even in the days of Jesus archeological findings show that a Sabbatical year was occurring on much of the farm land. However, the Year of the Jubilee was too much, rarely were prisoners and slaves set free or land returned to the original owner. So around 740 BC the prophet Isaiah tells the people: “Remember the Year of the Jubilee? Why are you no longer following God’s instructions?” Then he says,
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.
The “year of the Lord’s favor” was the Jubilee Year. Isaiah is begging his listeners, under the influence of the “Spirit of the Sovereign Lord,” to seek justice. This is not some metaphysical freeing. This is not some supernatural breaking of oppression and preaching of the Good News. This is “Good News” for the poor – breaking the chains of injustice.
Then again, in Luke 4, when Jesus begins His overt public ministry by preaching in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth, he repeats Isaiah 61. Jesus brought a new kind of Jubilee. One that was much like the old one, but better.
We want to seek justice through the Jubilee every day. We want our lives to be more than redistribution (the Leviticus version of Jubilee), which in itself is good, but incomplete. We want our lives to be about redistribution and reconciliation (the Jesus version of the Jubilee). When we can hold what the Lord has given us with an open hand (redistribution) and seek to build relationships with God and our neighbors (reconciliation) we will be more than community organizers, we will be helping to build the Kingdom of God.
It is amazing how the Lord continues to work on our behalf. Last week a colleague of mine approached me and thought it would be a good idea to get our message and what the JFP has to offer out on the local airwaves. Agreeing, but wondering exactly how she planned to do this, she said, “we are going down to PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste or Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United, the local farm-workers union) right now, can we tell them about you and see if they will do an interview on their affiliated local Spanish radio station?” An hour or so later my colleague returned and told us that we had an interview from 6-7pm on Monday and her friend Hector would translate for us.
“Radio Movimiento” (Movement Radio) with the sloga “La Voz del Pueblo” (The Voice of the People) broadcasts in a 10 mile radius around Woodburn reaching a significant number of Latinos in the area. It is a progressive radio station with the objective to give a voice to the many who do not have the opportunity to share their voice with others. As there website says: “Simply giving voice combats oppression and discrimination by lending legitimacy and breaking the silence, while building self-confidence, self-esteem and developing valuable skills.”
The Old Testament has numerous texts about how people should treat immigrants or “sojourners” or “aliens” in their country, but sometimes the Old Testament is tough to grasp since it also tells us that we can’t wear shirts that are mixed fibers. Simply said, the OT tells us that we should embrace and love immigrants. If that isn’t enough though, it is pretty clear that Jesus taught the same thing. Jesus ushered in a brand new Kingdom, one that transcends geographical borders. As disciples of Christ, our brothers and sisters live in Iraq, Mozambique, France, India, Brazil and Mexico. Our brothers and sisters are sprinkled all over this planet, and some of them may even be illegal immigrants in this current empire. We are simply called to love.
We are encouraged by how the Lord has given us this opportunity. Pray that our words are clear and that a message of equality and love through Jesus Christ flow from the airways next week. Better yet, pray that the Holy Spirit fills us and that our words come out in Spanish!
We must seek to bring His Kingdom here.
First off, I need to give you a little disclaimer: my thesis here is not to discount evangelism. We are all sinners, we all need salvation, we are nothing without the free gift of grace from Jesus Christ.
I believe that when we focus our attention and energy as believers primarily or exclusively on salvation we do so at the expense of discipleship. We end up with a lot of baby Christians who know the 4 spiritual laws and who have a desire to convert others to the same experience, but not much else. When we live like this what ends up happening is that we believe what it means to be a Christian is to make as many other Christians as possible.
Where do I get off saying something like this? Well, although Paul didn’t write anything like what I have, he didn’t write anything about evangelism either. As Tyler Wigg Stevenson wrote in his book Brand Jesus, “Paul the apostle, the greatest missionary in church history, spent exactly zero percent of his letters exhorting his flock to go out and make new converts. His emphasis was on doctrinal truth and living together as the body of Christ.”
Yes, Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, and I am not at all saying that we should not be deeply concerned about our neighbors who have never heard the Good News, but Jesus said a lot of things and I believe we need to take them all seriously. When someone asks why they should go to church what do we tell them? Some would answer: “So you don’t burn for eternity in Hell.” Although this is definitely a good enough reason, if we are so focused on the light at the end of the tunnel we will trip over a lot of things lying at our feet.
That is where this truth comes in. When Jesus explains how to pray he tells his listeners to ask God that His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). Jesus tells us that we should pray that earth is like heaven – that God’s Kingdom comes here – now – all around us. When we live our lives in a way that is so in-tune with the Spirit that we can sense His Kingdom all around us it is the greatest evangelistic tool around.
A quote that is commonly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi speaks directly to this:
Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.
I remember a class on the history of Mexico that I had while going to Southern Oregon University. A story stood out to me from the textbook explaining how many Jesuit priests in what is today northern Mexico and southwestern U.S. would dip brooms in “holy water” and fling the water onto the crowd of unsuspecting natives to save them from the lake of fire and eternal damnation.
What we need is not a body of believers who superficially scare people into the Kingdom, and in doing so build a flimsy theological foundation for that new Christian to build upon, but rather a church that allows their actions of love, service, sacrifice and grace to speak for itself. Those are the foundations that His Kingdom is built upon.
Unfortunately, this is how many non-Christians view concepts of heaven and hell and I can’t help but wonder if we haven’t created them ourselves:
We would like to ask all of you to join us in praying a covering over our family and home. We will be opening the Jubilee Food Pantry on May 25th at 4:00! The anticipation of this opportunity to pour ourselves out on the community has brought some anxiety (at least on my part) and definitely excitement to see all of this come to fruition.
We have NO idea how Tuesday evenings will go. The details are still a big foggy because of our lack of experience in this food pantry thing. We believe God will smooth all things out if we can continue to lay it all at His feet and let Him be the leader. It IS His ministry anyways! God is good and very gracious to let us join Him in spreading the Good News.
Pray with us as we let the Lord guide us and show Himself to us in each and every person who comes to our door.
And know you are always welcome…
There is a high cost to true discipleship.
One of my favorite quotes to use when we speak to church congregations is by the French Christian anarchist Jacques Ellul, “Christians should be troublemakers, creators of uncertainty, agents of a dimension incompatible with society.”
When I’m being real honest with myself, I can’t say that I am incompatible with society. I can’t really even say that I am “set apart” from others. At my worst, I look just like the world. At my best, I seem different, but not incompatible. Every disciple that followed Jesus was executed for their belief in Him (minus the Apostle John). Do I live my life with that sort of uncertainty? Do I stir up enough trouble and live a life so incompatible with this world that the world attempts to silence me? If the answer is “no” can I be called His disciple?
“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-27
“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22 (Mark 13:13)
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:38-39
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew16:24-26 (Mark 8:34-37)
“Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Matthew 19:29-30 (Mark 10:29-31)
“So you cannot be my disciple without giving up everything you own.” Luke 14:33
“. . . . small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14
So, let’s just assume that we actually took what Christ said literally. What do the above passages tell us?
Did Jesus really speak figuratively this often? Did He use hyperbole to express every point? I think, once again, when I’m being honest with myself I begin to realize that more often than not, Jesus was serious. We will lose our friends, or family and our livelihood, and if we are living real good, possibly even our lives. This is a testament of a true disciple. This sounds too extreme, too radical. And if we trace the word radical back to it’s source, the same word for “radish”, in the ground, the root, then yes, it is radical. I want to be radical, because I want more of the true Jesus, I NEED more of Jesus for this world to make any sense!
It is so easy to be a “believer” in this country of ours. Some places it is easier than others. So many church goers are playing a game, and that game costs them nothing. But the cost of true discipleship is high. Living a life that reflects Christ’s life in us is expensive, it might cost us our lives, and in His reality, it should — our lives should not be our own, we no longer live, it is Christ living in us — we should have already given up our lives.
In Luke 14, after Jesus tells His disciples that they must give up their very lives, he says this:
“For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’”
Jesus is warning us – count the cost! We must first recognize the radical sacrifice and then make a decision to either follow the call and give up our very own lives or reject that call and live a nominal Christianity. There is no easier way to put it. We either accept that we must give up everything or we reject Christ.
The early Christians got this. Disciple after disciple was executed, flogged, beaten. For nearly 300 years Christians were fed to the lions in the Colosseum for their beliefs, and many went with joy in their hearts because they were different. The early church even called themselves The Way, because their path was so different, so uncertain, so incompatible, so narrow, yet so right that it made them different — they chose a different way — Jesus. My prayer is that we, as believers in The Way can begin to see that true discipleship is costly and then actively live like we want nothing more than to walk the narrow path that leads to Jesus.