I was struck this morning by a phrase from an interview in the August 22nd Christian Century magazine. The interviewee is a young Mennonite pastor who was reflecting on what it means to be a Mennonite. His answer reflected on how difficult it is to be in community nowadays and specifically how "...I find it helpful to remember that our church has been called to share God's love in a mission context of significant material prosperity and relational poverty...." He hit it right on the head, didn't he?! We in America, and really in the developed world, live very affluent and individualistic lives. We're seduced by the corporate marketing machine to buy whatever we want (whether we need it or not) and to pursue our own salvation while ignoring the "other" or simply writing a check to salve our guilty souls.
The relational poverty piece is hitting home again right now as I deal with adult behaviors (of just a small number of adults) that wish to follow their own theology rather than the teaching and polity of The United Methodist Church. They are working through subterfuge and inuendo to try and alter the current operating philosophy which is holding them accoutable for less than optimal Christian behavior. They are so impoverished in their ability to relate to the larger community of faith (both our church and the larger UMC) that they are finding themselves on an island with a growing chasm of separation. They want to return to the way things have always been - even though the leadership and congregation have moved on from this worldview. I honestly don't know if they will continue to attend - and I'm struggling with my own frustration with them and the desire to just see them leave which will end this issue.
Relational poverty is exhibited in just that frustration. We're called to love enemy and neighbor as self. The inability to relate well to those challenging situations comes directly from my still evolving spiritual self that has not been completely transformed. When I haven't taken care of my own spiritual self, and have let myself become weary (physically and spiritually) then I can not deal with the other in a loving way. This week, seek to recharge your spiritual battery and bank account so that you can engage in matters like this from a place of spiritual affluence. It will make all the difference.
Peace for the journey,