Well folks it’s that time of year again, it is Lent. Lent of course is that season in the church’s life when she begins to contemplate what it means to travel the long road to the cross which Jesus takes on our behalf in the hopes that, unlike the disciples, we might not run away afraid but claim Jesus as our own just as he claims us as his own. It’s a good thing that none of us takes this journey alone but that we do so as a church, each one of us never disconnected from the others taking this journey to the cross. It is also an interesting time of the year culturally. The news seems to be the same coming out of Washington, the kids are well into their school routines, work schedules are well known and the days move one into the next. Yet there is a pending sense of adventure as well.
As I continue to move through this year with you I will be attending to research for my Doctoral project and I would like to share with you some thoughts on how this might impact our life here at Heritage. I will be engaging in a discipline called ethnography. This is the practice of literally, “studying the nations.” Of course this is not exactly how it will be borne out here. What will occur though should yield some surprising and helpful results. The primary question I am seeking an answer to is this: What does being the church look like as we encounter people different from ourselves, who may not know what the church is? As we move deeper into the 21st century the suburban landscape is changing rapidly with more immigrants moving into our surrounding neighborhoods than ever before. The church is obligated to do ministry with those whom it encounters and yet we have very little idea what changes may be needed to do ministry with say, people from India or Asia. By learning more about these cultures through guided interviews, we will have pathways open for us to build bi-cultural bridge communities.
There is a lot of Biblical precedent for this. When Peter encounters Cornelius and his household and sees the Holy Spirit being poured out on them in Acts 10, it is clear that two seemingly disparate cultures are having a bridge built between them. In fact, I would argue that the bulk of the book of Acts and the New Testament as a whole is a discussion of what bi-cultural bridge building looks like. It is important to keep in mind throughout this project, which I am hoping you will help me with, that the goal is never conversion to the faith, as though we could be the savior of people. The people already have a savior named Jesus Christ. No, the goal, as it is in Scripture is encountering the other as witnesses to the good news which we have received and which we are obligated to share. That others may be drawn into the way of faith is a very real possibility, but that occurs through the power of God the Holy Spirit. Our role in all of this is to love the other. I hope you will join me on this journey.