Racial Reconciliation & Peacemaking in the Midst of Violence

“The early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.” 

― Martin Luther King Jr.Letter from the Birmingham Jail

February was a powerful month to be discussing such topics as Racial Reconciliation and Peacemaking in the Midst of Violence here at the Yellow House. We are aware that we have lived a year, and march on into another, where these two marks of Jesus-following are crucial for the healing of our neighborhoods, nations, and world. Recent history has shown us that we still have much from which to heal, and we are encouraged to know that folks all over the world are dreaming that there may in fact be another way of doing life than through lenses of hate and violence for violence. In the small ways that we were able to participate in those dreams and conversations this month, we give thanks. 

February started with a monthly Teaching and Family Meal that was a bit different than our usual speaker-audience set up. A living room of folks came together to read through reconciliation liturgy that had been crafted especially for the evening. Following time of songs and prayers, the group carved out space (that we so often need more of) to talk about what racial reconciliation and nonviolence have to say to our current world today through the Church at large. What cultures are we changing, promoting, overlooking? And does it look like the enemy-love, love-for-us-all way of Jesus?

A panel of wonderful men who lived, marched, suffered, and dreamt through the civil rights movements of the 60s came together in the Yellow House living room a few weeks ago to share their experiences, laments, and hopes for our world. With their experiences in pastoring, politicking, nonprofit founding, and friendship-making across lines of difference, Community Renewal founder Mack McCarter, Councilman Willie Bradford, and Pastor Calvin Austin brought stories of reality and hope to our home, and we were thankful for the time they offered. 

In a practice of active forgiveness, our staff and interns this month took time to research the names, lives, and sentences of those who sit on death row in our state. The more we read the gospels, the harder it is to reconcile that death for death makes any sense to the patterns of God’s Kingdom. But that does not make it any easier to reach out to those whose crimes seem laced with hate, corruption, or apathy. However, there is enough grace to break our scared and hesitant hearts to realize that the seeds of good and evil can be found inside of all of us. Letters were written to the two Louisiana prisons where men and women from all sorts of walks in life are awaiting their fate amidst rounds and rounds of appeals. It is a powerful experiment in discovering the grace needed to forgive yourself, others, and the systems we’ve created together that do not trust God for His redemptive power. 

Three things that took place this month that we could suggest for anyone in your own homes and places of dreaming: 1) we read through Preston Sprinkle’s book Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence , 2) we resurfaced Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail ", and 3) we planned a diversity dinner where everyone in the house was asked to invited someone “different" than they are (which unfortunately fell through due to the snowy weather).

  1. If you have ever wrestled with attempting to line up the enemy-loving words of Jesus in the New Testament with the God-sanctioned battles in the Old, with the American Christian take on war held in high esteem throughout many of our congregations…this may be a book for you. While Sprinkle doesn’t claim to have all the answers, and there was still much to discuss and wade through in conversation within our house, we believe he does offer a conversation that is needed at this time in our country and church’s history. 
  2. To see how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go, MLK’s letter is a powerful litmus test for where we stand concerning racial reconciliation in our churches today. It is worth a read (maybe two or three). 
  3. With your small group, prayer group, or joining with a couple of families, have each person invite someone who is different from them (in age, race, sexual orientation, religion, economic status) to your living room for a night of potluck and conversation. Fix your plates and ask those in the room to go around and answer three simple questions: Who are you? What is one time in your childhood that you felt like an outsider or different? When is a time that you felt like you belonged? What is powerful in moments carved out such as these is that we realize we don’t have to be so scared, and that probably, we have much more in common than we do that divides us. It is worth your evening, we promise. 

We pray that God infuses your days ahead with dreams that question the systems and patterns of this world that simply are not working in alignment with the good news of Jesus, and that we may all make a little more margin to talk, lament, and hope for another world that is possible and in many ways, at hand. 


-Britney & The Yellow House Family


For further reading inspired by our conversations this month, check out...

The wisdom of stability (A conversation with jonathan wilson-hartgrove)

We were honored to invite Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove into our home, our neighborhood, and our city last week! If you missed our conversation with him at the Yellow House or just want to listen again, check out the complete recording of Wednesday night in the above audio player.

Watch the short book trailer if you're curious about the book of his that we studied in January, Wisdom of Stability. We're so grateful for the challenges, encouragements, and stories that it is filled with, which have been helping us learn how to put down roots of love in this place with these people over the last few years.

Hospitality to the Strange(r)

 Jennifer Strange teaching on Hospitality to the Stranger in the Yellow House living room. September 7, 2014.

Jennifer Strange teaching on Hospitality to the Stranger in the Yellow House living room. September 7, 2014.

We had the immense privilege of having Jennifer Strange, a great friend and gifted teacher (among other things), in the living room recently to lead us in conversation about Hospitality to the Stranger, which is one of the 12 marks of New Monasticism and the focus of our internship in September.  We're excited to share her slides and notes from that teaching with you here on the blog. If you missed out on this the first time around or are looking to refresh yourself on what you heard, hopefully these resources will be valuable to you!

  Those who belong to God through Jesus Christ are commanded to practice hospitality. But what is that? Having your church friends over regularly for tea and biscuits? Well, maybe. I sure like tea with friends, and I reckon it’s okay to enjoy that. But such comfortable fellowship frankly falls far short of the biblical vision for hospitality. In the Scripture, hospitality means caring for people you aren’t personally obligated to care for. Hospitality means extending to the “other” whatever provisions and comforts belong to your household. Hospitality involves risk. Hospitality requires sacrificial sharing. (Suddenly, tea with friends doesn’t seem so hospitable…)       Here’s how I want to sum all that up: hospitality is the art of homemaking for people who don’t belong to your home. But this begs the question: what is “home”? If we survey the different cultural expressions of hospitality over time, I don’t think we’ll be able to fulfill God’s command to practice hospitality. At best, our practice will be limited to current cultural possibilities and sensibilities. At worst, we’ll be enslaved to idols that actually make our so-called hospitality an expression of injustice. So we must ask ourselves why we are commanded to practice hospitality. At the risk of oversimplification, I think the reason is that God is a homemaker (Peterson 12).        Tonight, I want to make that claim from a few places in Scripture where we see God making “home” for strangers, and then we will talk about the challenges of making home and practicing hospitality in this broken world. Put another way, we will talk about “Making Home in the Dry and Weary Land.”        I want to talk about making “home” because I believe that the theology of “home” is the foundation for practicing hospitality. The truth of the triune God and his activity as homemaker in this age and the age to come must be the basis for all of our housekeeping and hospitality and love (cf Volf 74).      And I want to talk about making home in the dry and weary land because that’s the reality of where we live these days. This whole earth is a dry and weary land in need of a deluge of gospel. In one sense, that deluge has come. In another sense, it is coming. We make home because it has come. And we make home in hope of its coming.       I plan to describe tonight what I see in the Bible about how God makes home—it’s on the first page, and it’s on the last page, and it’s on lots of pages between (though we won’t consider too many of those). And that’s enough for me to think it probably ought to matter every day of my life. Indeed, I believe that the Creator means for his brand of homemaking to matter not only for how we regard our daily life but also for how we engage others and where we locate ourselves.       So let’s get to it…

Those who belong to God through Jesus Christ are commanded to practice hospitality. But what is that? Having your church friends over regularly for tea and biscuits? Well, maybe. I sure like tea with friends, and I reckon it’s okay to enjoy that. But such comfortable fellowship frankly falls far short of the biblical vision for hospitality. In the Scripture, hospitality means caring for people you aren’t personally obligated to care for. Hospitality means extending to the “other” whatever provisions and comforts belong to your household. Hospitality involves risk. Hospitality requires sacrificial sharing. (Suddenly, tea with friends doesn’t seem so hospitable…)

 

Here’s how I want to sum all that up: hospitality is the art of homemaking for people who don’t belong to your home. But this begs the question: what is “home”? If we survey the different cultural expressions of hospitality over time, I don’t think we’ll be able to fulfill God’s command to practice hospitality. At best, our practice will be limited to current cultural possibilities and sensibilities. At worst, we’ll be enslaved to idols that actually make our so-called hospitality an expression of injustice. So we must ask ourselves why we are commanded to practice hospitality. At the risk of oversimplification, I think the reason is that God is a homemaker (Peterson 12). 

 

Tonight, I want to make that claim from a few places in Scripture where we see God making “home” for strangers, and then we will talk about the challenges of making home and practicing hospitality in this broken world. Put another way, we will talk about “Making Home in the Dry and Weary Land.” 

 

I want to talk about making “home” because I believe that the theology of “home” is the foundation for practicing hospitality. The truth of the triune God and his activity as homemaker in this age and the age to come must be the basis for all of our housekeeping and hospitality and love (cf Volf 74).  

And I want to talk about making home in the dry and weary land because that’s the reality of where we live these days. This whole earth is a dry and weary land in need of a deluge of gospel. In one sense, that deluge has come. In another sense, it is coming. We make home because it has come. And we make home in hope of its coming.

 

I plan to describe tonight what I see in the Bible about how God makes home—it’s on the first page, and it’s on the last page, and it’s on lots of pages between (though we won’t consider too many of those). And that’s enough for me to think it probably ought to matter every day of my life. Indeed, I believe that the Creator means for his brand of homemaking to matter not only for how we regard our daily life but also for how we engage others and where we locate ourselves.

 

So let’s get to it…

  Home is the place where we rest, where we belong, where we are known, where we are cared for and where we extend care, where we are equipped for the outside world, where we are welcome and can welcome others (see Margaret Kim Peterson,  Keeping House , 25).    Home is the space where people made in God’s image can flourish—can bear God’s image in the world. So home is a space where human flourishing happens—both those who reside in that space and those welcomed into that space.    Home is wherever shalom is practiced—wherever complete reconciliation occurs (Keller,  Generous Justice , 174).    We would do well, then, to think of “home” in a very primary sense (the actual house or apartment in which you live) and a rather figurative sense (the atmosphere of flourishing).

Home is the place where we rest, where we belong, where we are known, where we are cared for and where we extend care, where we are equipped for the outside world, where we are welcome and can welcome others (see Margaret Kim Peterson, Keeping House, 25).

Home is the space where people made in God’s image can flourish—can bear God’s image in the world. So home is a space where human flourishing happens—both those who reside in that space and those welcomed into that space.

Home is wherever shalom is practiced—wherever complete reconciliation occurs (Keller, Generous Justice, 174).

We would do well, then, to think of “home” in a very primary sense (the actual house or apartment in which you live) and a rather figurative sense (the atmosphere of flourishing).

  Christians are called to practice hospitality with fellow Christians (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9) and with strangers (Hebrews 13:2). The practice of hospitality requires that you notice others in need, love them, and perform justice for them (Deuteronomy 10:17–19).    While homemaking may be an obviously significant and time-consuming practice for the house in which you live, Scripture never assumes that you should practice it for yourself and your nuclear family only or even primarily. Rather, in the Bible, the idea of “home,” in its broadest and most specific senses, is never intended for the selfish comfort of certain people to “have” a home. Thus, the home where you rest is your launching pad for ministry (Crouch,  Culture Making , 45–46). It is usually (if not always) a means to an end: the proper practice of homemaking is always connected to the practice of hospitality.

Christians are called to practice hospitality with fellow Christians (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9) and with strangers (Hebrews 13:2). The practice of hospitality requires that you notice others in need, love them, and perform justice for them (Deuteronomy 10:17–19).

While homemaking may be an obviously significant and time-consuming practice for the house in which you live, Scripture never assumes that you should practice it for yourself and your nuclear family only or even primarily. Rather, in the Bible, the idea of “home,” in its broadest and most specific senses, is never intended for the selfish comfort of certain people to “have” a home. Thus, the home where you rest is your launching pad for ministry (Crouch, Culture Making, 45–46). It is usually (if not always) a means to an end: the proper practice of homemaking is always connected to the practice of hospitality.

  As the Bible begins, we see God making a home, and it’s especially suited for those creatures made in the image of the triune God. In the first home that God made for them, our first parents had everything they needed: beauty, shelter, food, work, companionship (see Peterson 22). And what are these image-bearers to do at home? They are to make more creatures and cultivate the creation.

As the Bible begins, we see God making a home, and it’s especially suited for those creatures made in the image of the triune God. In the first home that God made for them, our first parents had everything they needed: beauty, shelter, food, work, companionship (see Peterson 22). And what are these image-bearers to do at home? They are to make more creatures and cultivate the creation.

  Andy Crouch wrote, “Our most fundamental task is to unfold the world’s abundant possibilities and deep meaningfulness—to cultivate and create in such a way that the true God’s identity and ways are named and praised” ( Playing God  55). I would argue that making home is one way in which—or perhaps  by  which—we perform that most fundamental task. We need home, and we need to make home, and we need to make home for others—because God makes home and is home.

Andy Crouch wrote, “Our most fundamental task is to unfold the world’s abundant possibilities and deep meaningfulness—to cultivate and create in such a way that the true God’s identity and ways are named and praised” (Playing God 55). I would argue that making home is one way in which—or perhaps by which—we perform that most fundamental task. We need home, and we need to make home, and we need to make home for others—because God makes home and is home.

  This is exactly why the finale of Genesis 3 is so heartbreaking. When Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden, they lost their home. They no longer belonged anywhere or to anyone with the same intimacy and safety with which they had belonged to God and each other and all of creation in Eden. As Margaret Kim Peterson wrote, “Home, once an encompassing reality, was now reduced to dim memory and distant longings” (23). The cycles of exile and homecoming that we see throughout redemptive history started with one flaming moment on the east edge of Eden.

This is exactly why the finale of Genesis 3 is so heartbreaking. When Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden, they lost their home. They no longer belonged anywhere or to anyone with the same intimacy and safety with which they had belonged to God and each other and all of creation in Eden. As Margaret Kim Peterson wrote, “Home, once an encompassing reality, was now reduced to dim memory and distant longings” (23). The cycles of exile and homecoming that we see throughout redemptive history started with one flaming moment on the east edge of Eden.

  Throughout Israelite history, we see God’s people developing a profound longing for home. This is because they knew that “home” was both a present reality and a future home. They knew that it was something they made and something they longed for—something they could and should enact amid brokenness and something they waited for God to enact.       God repeats his promise of “home” to Israel a lot, and he repeatedly calls Israel to make home for people who don’t have a home and who can’t make one. In fact, in Isaiah’s prophecy, God keeps promising impossible kinds of homes to people. Some passages that really capture my imagination include 54:1–3; 56:1–8; 58:10–12.

Throughout Israelite history, we see God’s people developing a profound longing for home. This is because they knew that “home” was both a present reality and a future home. They knew that it was something they made and something they longed for—something they could and should enact amid brokenness and something they waited for God to enact.

 

God repeats his promise of “home” to Israel a lot, and he repeatedly calls Israel to make home for people who don’t have a home and who can’t make one. In fact, in Isaiah’s prophecy, God keeps promising impossible kinds of homes to people. Some passages that really capture my imagination include 54:1–3; 56:1–8; 58:10–12.

  Let’s take a slightly closer look at one of those passages…    In Isaiah 49:19–23, God promises that impossible families will dwell in previously forsaken land (v 20). In fact, there will be more children than the land can hold (vv 19–21). They will come home through foster care (vv 22–23a).     This prophecy speaks to the adoptive family that God is building (see Romans 8, Ephesians 1, Galatians 4)—the family we call the church. God will make this happen for his own name’s sake (v 23).    Though one might certainly read these verses and see all the more keenly the earthly importance of foster care and adoption, we must see that these verses are not about human families. Instead, they are about the kind of evangelism and justice embodied in the largest prophetic iterations of hospitality and homemaking. Israel has a duty to make home for strangers who will be her very own children.     There are many different theological and practical implications for this truth, but one way that Christians get to participate in the in-gathering described here is through gospel-centered care for others. Make room. Make room for many. Make room for many to dwell. Make the “other” belong. Don’t do any of this apart from the knowledge that Yahweh is God. Wait for him. You won’t be put to shame.

Let’s take a slightly closer look at one of those passages…

In Isaiah 49:19–23, God promises that impossible families will dwell in previously forsaken land (v 20). In fact, there will be more children than the land can hold (vv 19–21). They will come home through foster care (vv 22–23a). 

This prophecy speaks to the adoptive family that God is building (see Romans 8, Ephesians 1, Galatians 4)—the family we call the church. God will make this happen for his own name’s sake (v 23).

Though one might certainly read these verses and see all the more keenly the earthly importance of foster care and adoption, we must see that these verses are not about human families. Instead, they are about the kind of evangelism and justice embodied in the largest prophetic iterations of hospitality and homemaking. Israel has a duty to make home for strangers who will be her very own children. 

There are many different theological and practical implications for this truth, but one way that Christians get to participate in the in-gathering described here is through gospel-centered care for others. Make room. Make room for many. Make room for many to dwell. Make the “other” belong. Don’t do any of this apart from the knowledge that Yahweh is God. Wait for him. You won’t be put to shame.

  That promise of “no shame” forces at least two questions: 1) How long must we wait? and 2) What do we do in the meantime?    In one sense, the great homecoming has already begun. Isaiah prophesied that God himself would come to us, and when he did, he would finish the work that he had begun (55:10–11). So John tells us that God himself has come in the flesh and tabernacled with us, or made his home with us (1:14). This is the glorious first fruit of the final homecoming.    It should come as no surprise, then, that Jesus also spoke of true and lasting home. In fact, in John 14, he told his disciples not to worry because though he was going to leave them soon, it was only because he was going into the full-time occupation of homemaking just for them.

That promise of “no shame” forces at least two questions: 1) How long must we wait? and 2) What do we do in the meantime?

In one sense, the great homecoming has already begun. Isaiah prophesied that God himself would come to us, and when he did, he would finish the work that he had begun (55:10–11). So John tells us that God himself has come in the flesh and tabernacled with us, or made his home with us (1:14). This is the glorious first fruit of the final homecoming.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Jesus also spoke of true and lasting home. In fact, in John 14, he told his disciples not to worry because though he was going to leave them soon, it was only because he was going into the full-time occupation of homemaking just for them.

  Then we get a glimpse of his handiwork in Revelation 21. Indeed, “nowhere but [the New Jerusalem] will ever fully satisfy the human longing for home” (Peterson 24). Because in the New Jerusalem, we finally return home to God (see v 23).     God is the great homemaker. Indeed, God  is  home.    The peace of the earth itself is contingent upon the complete homecoming of the sons of God (see Isaiah 55:12 and Romans 8:12). When the final adoption decree is filed and the adopted children of God come into the new age, then the earth will sigh relief that it is finished. So we do not know how long we must wait, but we do know what we must do in the meantime. We must practice that vision of home now because we will enjoy that reality in the age to come. Anyone who looks forward to that great place and that great day cannot sit still in a broken world: our Father intends to bring many sons to glory. So we must speak and breathe the gospel into our neighbors, we must pour ourselves into ministries of mercy, we must pour ourselves out as drink offerings.

Then we get a glimpse of his handiwork in Revelation 21. Indeed, “nowhere but [the New Jerusalem] will ever fully satisfy the human longing for home” (Peterson 24). Because in the New Jerusalem, we finally return home to God (see v 23). 

God is the great homemaker. Indeed, God is home.

The peace of the earth itself is contingent upon the complete homecoming of the sons of God (see Isaiah 55:12 and Romans 8:12). When the final adoption decree is filed and the adopted children of God come into the new age, then the earth will sigh relief that it is finished. So we do not know how long we must wait, but we do know what we must do in the meantime. We must practice that vision of home now because we will enjoy that reality in the age to come. Anyone who looks forward to that great place and that great day cannot sit still in a broken world: our Father intends to bring many sons to glory. So we must speak and breathe the gospel into our neighbors, we must pour ourselves into ministries of mercy, we must pour ourselves out as drink offerings.

  When I contemplate all of this, I feel a great aching and longing. As much as I enjoy my own home, and as much as I enjoy practicing and receiving hospitality in this world, and as much as I love the vision of home that God has given us for the age to come, I can never escape the reality that this world is largely inhospitable, and relatively few people experience any sense of home here.    So…think about the deserts in Scripture, and think about what deserts meant to the first readers of Scripture. This is where that “dry and weary land” phrase in the title of my talk comes from—the desert in Psalm 63. It’s hard to be at home in a desert, but the desert in Scripture does not simply represent harsh living conditions. Desert is the path to exile, whether because of excommunication or external empire. 

When I contemplate all of this, I feel a great aching and longing. As much as I enjoy my own home, and as much as I enjoy practicing and receiving hospitality in this world, and as much as I love the vision of home that God has given us for the age to come, I can never escape the reality that this world is largely inhospitable, and relatively few people experience any sense of home here.

So…think about the deserts in Scripture, and think about what deserts meant to the first readers of Scripture. This is where that “dry and weary land” phrase in the title of my talk comes from—the desert in Psalm 63. It’s hard to be at home in a desert, but the desert in Scripture does not simply represent harsh living conditions. Desert is the path to exile, whether because of excommunication or external empire. 

  We cannot contemplate the theology of home without acknowledging the reality of brokenness.     There are many threats to home…poverty, divorce, rage, addiction, depression, death, anxiety, fear, pride, social immobility, poor education, abuse, willful ignorance, selfishness, pocketbook privacy, Facebook. I could go on. I’m just going to throw about a big claim here and say that all of the threats to home are idols—anything that distorts our vision of God by lying to us about what matters most (see  Playing God  55).     The Scripture calls our attention to many categories of people who suffer homelessness. When I say this, I do not merely mean those who sleep on the streets but those who do not have  shalom —those who need reconciliation, those who need to take refuge in God, those who need belonging, those who need to regain the capacity to flourish. Think of how often in Scripture we read about God’s heart for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the homeless, the abandoned, the abused, the foreigner, people on the edge of empire, the other.

We cannot contemplate the theology of home without acknowledging the reality of brokenness. 

There are many threats to home…poverty, divorce, rage, addiction, depression, death, anxiety, fear, pride, social immobility, poor education, abuse, willful ignorance, selfishness, pocketbook privacy, Facebook. I could go on. I’m just going to throw about a big claim here and say that all of the threats to home are idols—anything that distorts our vision of God by lying to us about what matters most (see Playing God 55). 

The Scripture calls our attention to many categories of people who suffer homelessness. When I say this, I do not merely mean those who sleep on the streets but those who do not have shalom—those who need reconciliation, those who need to take refuge in God, those who need belonging, those who need to regain the capacity to flourish. Think of how often in Scripture we read about God’s heart for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the homeless, the abandoned, the abused, the foreigner, people on the edge of empire, the other.

  But God gives us the theology of home and the task of making home even in this dry and weary land where there is no water.    The passages I mentioned in Isaiah are full of physical impossibilities coupled with the persistent promise that God will do it. So the question is only this: should the hope of home (as I see it in Isaiah, John, Revelation, and elsewhere) matter today? Put another way, how should the future reality of home with God affect my choices today and/or my plans for the future? Should this reality of God as homemaker make a difference in what you eat for breakfast, whether you marry, where you live, how many televisions you own, how you scrub the toilets, how you organize your weekends, how many children you have and how those children join your family, with whom you eat dinner? In a word, yes. Undoubtedly and profoundly, yes.    Now, a word of encouragement. All of this can be rather overwhelming. We need to make too many changes. We need to fix too many problems. We cannot even wrap our brains and hearts around the problems before us, and there are so many more. The chasm between this desert and our future home in the age to come is just too big. As I have written before on the subject of adoption, sometimes I think it would be better for me to just sit on the couch and eat cheese until Jesus returns. But God does not call us to fix anything; God calls us to faithfulness. Get uncomfortable, but don’t be afraid to practice new faithfulness in a way that feels pitifully small. Don’t fail to obey today simply because the task God has given you seems insignificant; God gives grace now for the task just before you, and he will give you vision and grace for the next task at just the right time too.     So, again, what do we do? We must steward our cultural power for the benefit of others who have little or no cultural power (see  Culture Making  230–231, but also  Playing God ,  Generous Justice ,  Ministries of Mercy , etc).

But God gives us the theology of home and the task of making home even in this dry and weary land where there is no water.

The passages I mentioned in Isaiah are full of physical impossibilities coupled with the persistent promise that God will do it. So the question is only this: should the hope of home (as I see it in Isaiah, John, Revelation, and elsewhere) matter today? Put another way, how should the future reality of home with God affect my choices today and/or my plans for the future? Should this reality of God as homemaker make a difference in what you eat for breakfast, whether you marry, where you live, how many televisions you own, how you scrub the toilets, how you organize your weekends, how many children you have and how those children join your family, with whom you eat dinner? In a word, yes. Undoubtedly and profoundly, yes.

Now, a word of encouragement. All of this can be rather overwhelming. We need to make too many changes. We need to fix too many problems. We cannot even wrap our brains and hearts around the problems before us, and there are so many more. The chasm between this desert and our future home in the age to come is just too big. As I have written before on the subject of adoption, sometimes I think it would be better for me to just sit on the couch and eat cheese until Jesus returns. But God does not call us to fix anything; God calls us to faithfulness. Get uncomfortable, but don’t be afraid to practice new faithfulness in a way that feels pitifully small. Don’t fail to obey today simply because the task God has given you seems insignificant; God gives grace now for the task just before you, and he will give you vision and grace for the next task at just the right time too. 

So, again, what do we do? We must steward our cultural power for the benefit of others who have little or no cultural power (see Culture Making 230–231, but also Playing God, Generous Justice, Ministries of Mercy, etc).

  Making home is an attitude before it is ever a to-do list.     It requires humility (example of housework) and an attention to the other.     “Our culture’s ideal self, especially the accomplished, professional self, rises above necessity, the humble, everyday, ordinary tasks that are best left to unskilled labor” (Kathleen Norris,  The Quotidian Mysteries , 40).    Making home is both highly a-cultural and highly cultural.     Even as we continually struggle to decontextualize our understanding of home in order to orient ourselves around a gospel sense of home, we must remember that we cannot absent ourselves from culture. We must continually enact our theological understanding of home on a diverse cultural milieu.    But don’t be afraid to ask the smallest questions first. Remember, hospitality isn’t about fixing the world’s wrongs. It’s about loving the other. Sometimes that is as simple and significant as opening your dinner table to someone.     Just this week, I finally read Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s conversion memoir  The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert , and I think it is tremendous. It would not sit easily with all readers, but I recommend it highly nonetheless.     Butterfield returns often to the importance of experiencing hospitality and the occasional awkwardness and grief of having practiced it. For her, receiving hospitality meant that another family’s home became her “safe haven” (78).    Later, when she and her husband regularly host a house church and then begin to serve as foster parents, she reminds us that the regular practice of hospitality yields great joy because it requires hard work and vulnerability. “A family that never opens its heart never feels heartbroken,” she writes. “A family that never welcomes in others never misses them when they leave” (124).    Making home is a quotidian affair, but it is also a mystery.     The dailiness must, as much as is possible, always have the future in view. Remember your home—the home Jesus is preparing for those who love him. Make home now in view of that. You’ll still need to do the laundry and scrub the toilets. You and the image-bearers with whom you make home will have greater opportunity to flourish when you practice good housekeeping (that is, when you craft healthy meals, minimize concern for shelter of body and things, keep tidy spaces for conversation and creativity, and regularly shoo germs from the premises).    But if you make home here with an eye to your home in the new Jerusalem, it will only feel normal to welcome strangers into your present home.    In fact, it should feel increasingly normal to correlate “home” with “justice.” For in the broadest sense, making home is closely connected to “the heart of the biblical understanding of justice: the restoration of the human capacity to bear the image in all its fulness” ( Playing God  83).

Making home is an attitude before it is ever a to-do list. 

It requires humility (example of housework) and an attention to the other. 

“Our culture’s ideal self, especially the accomplished, professional self, rises above necessity, the humble, everyday, ordinary tasks that are best left to unskilled labor” (Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries, 40).

Making home is both highly a-cultural and highly cultural. 

Even as we continually struggle to decontextualize our understanding of home in order to orient ourselves around a gospel sense of home, we must remember that we cannot absent ourselves from culture. We must continually enact our theological understanding of home on a diverse cultural milieu.

But don’t be afraid to ask the smallest questions first. Remember, hospitality isn’t about fixing the world’s wrongs. It’s about loving the other. Sometimes that is as simple and significant as opening your dinner table to someone. 

Just this week, I finally read Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s conversion memoir The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, and I think it is tremendous. It would not sit easily with all readers, but I recommend it highly nonetheless. 

Butterfield returns often to the importance of experiencing hospitality and the occasional awkwardness and grief of having practiced it. For her, receiving hospitality meant that another family’s home became her “safe haven” (78).

Later, when she and her husband regularly host a house church and then begin to serve as foster parents, she reminds us that the regular practice of hospitality yields great joy because it requires hard work and vulnerability. “A family that never opens its heart never feels heartbroken,” she writes. “A family that never welcomes in others never misses them when they leave” (124).

Making home is a quotidian affair, but it is also a mystery. 

The dailiness must, as much as is possible, always have the future in view. Remember your home—the home Jesus is preparing for those who love him. Make home now in view of that. You’ll still need to do the laundry and scrub the toilets. You and the image-bearers with whom you make home will have greater opportunity to flourish when you practice good housekeeping (that is, when you craft healthy meals, minimize concern for shelter of body and things, keep tidy spaces for conversation and creativity, and regularly shoo germs from the premises).

But if you make home here with an eye to your home in the new Jerusalem, it will only feel normal to welcome strangers into your present home.

In fact, it should feel increasingly normal to correlate “home” with “justice.” For in the broadest sense, making home is closely connected to “the heart of the biblical understanding of justice: the restoration of the human capacity to bear the image in all its fulness” (Playing God 83).

  (Suggested reading list.)

(Suggested reading list.)


The 12 Marks of What?!

Originally posted at sarahduet.com/blog/12marks...

 Photo by Jessie Smith, YH Intern

Photo by Jessie Smith, YH Intern

“Some have become domestic communities and are eventualizing in what we now call “the new monasticism,” a way of being in which Christians, bound together under vows of stability, living out their private lives together in radical obedience to the Great Commandment...

Life on the margins has always been the most difficult and, at the same time, the one most imaginatively lived.”

— Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence

As some of you may know, I'm part of a New Monastic community that has put down roots in the Highland neighborhood of Shreveport, LA. A new mona-what? If that's your question...no worries. It's a common one. And while it's not the easiest question to answer adequately, I write today in hopes to do it some justice. 

WHAT IS MONASTICISM ANYWAY?

Let's start with the word monastic. Think of the communal life that has been shared by the monks, nuns, & mystics throughout history. I'm not exactly talking about Friar Tuck from Robin Hood or The Reverend Mother singing "Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music–though they are both awesome characters. But I've digressed. Back to reality...

Monastic movements have sprung up throughout history as a means by which to preserve the character of the Church in the world, to remind the Church who She is in times when Her sense of identity is in jeopardy. The New Monasticism is no different in this basic premise. However, the world is different today than it was in the 4th century for the Desert Mothers & Fathers, in the 6th century for St. Benedict his fold, and even in the 16th century for the Reformers. 

OK, SO WHAT'S NEW ABOUT IT NOW?

Monasticism today in many ways looks different. Many exciting ways. Most notably, the New Monasticism goes into society–relocating to the abandoned places of imperial culture to embody the kind of life we hope to preserve, rather than retreating from society to do so. Put simply: Same goals for the Church and for the world. Different geographic starting place & execution strategy.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer–20th-century German pastor, martyr, and expert on Christian community–wrote in a letter to his brother in 1935:

“The restoration of the church will surely come only from a new type of monasticism which has nothing in common with the old but a complete lack of compromise in a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount in the discipleship of Christ. I think it is time to gather people together to do this…”

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Prophetic.

Perhaps one of the simplest ways to describe the New Monasticism would be "Sermon-on-the-Mount Christianity." However, we've abstracted and complicated (or worse, ignored) the Sermon on the Mount so much in the American church that we hardly have a picture in our minds of what exactly "Sermon-on-the-Mount Christianity" looks like in the real world anymore. (To read Jesus' Sermon on the Mount see Matthew 5-7, and the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:17-49.)

OK, SO WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

In 2004, a group of New Monastic communities came together to articulate some of their primary common threads–something like a summary of the "rule of life" that was guiding them and a starting point that future communities in the movement would be shaped by. There is much diversity among the communities all over the US (and the globe), but these are 12 values generally upheld by most communities associated with the movement. You can read the official 12 Marks here, and the following is our particular community's current adaptation of the language to best translate into our context:

1. We make sure we are located in an abandoned place of the empire. If we are not, we relocate. 

2. We share our economic resources with fellow community members and those among us who are in need.

3. We make our homes and our lives hospitable to the stranger, maintaining a willingness and preparedness to open our door to friend, foe, neighbor, and traveler alike. 

4. We lament for division within the church and our communities, combining that with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation (for the hate and division concerning race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, gender, and all types of othering that isolate and dehumanize those made in God's image). 

5. We humbly submit to Christ's Body, the Church, dedicated to always pursuing unity and seeking to be the church we dream of rather than complaining about the church we do not see. 

6. We are committed to intentional formation in the Way of Christ and the community's agreed upon lifestyle (common rule) along the lines of the old novitiate–valuing the depth and freedom of discipline as we embody a new way of being in the world. 

7. We nurture the common life among members of intentional community by following the rules of relationship (eat, play, study, grieve, share, celebrate together, etc). 

8. We support celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children, committed to coexisting as one family. 

9. We live in geographic proximity to community members who share a common rule of life, understanding and promoting the wisdom of stability. 

10. We care for the plot of God's earth given to us along with supporting our local economies. 

11. We make peace in the midst if violence and practice conflict resolution within the community along the lines of Matthew 18, committed to the nonviolent enemy-love exampled by Jesus. 

12. We are committed to a disciplined contemplative life of prayer, agreeing to silence ourselves in a busy world that we might free up the space to listen to God and respond. 

I can't help but be a little overwhelmed by writing those out, uncomfortably aware of how far we have to go before our lives fully reflect these statements. But we know values shape our lives, so we stay committed to aspiring to live in line with these values–trusting that we'll be molded into a people that embodies them at some point. And trusting that the mere but earnest attempt is the willingness to which we are called that can make us better little by little, in turn making the world around us better little by little.

OK, SO WHERE'D ALL THIS COME FROM?

The New Monastic movement's birth is hard to pinpoint, but stirrings of what is now a global movement seemed to take shape in the UK in the 1970's & 80's, following soon thereafter in the early 1990's here in the US. One of early leaders and articulators of the movement here in the US was Jonathan Wilson, who proposed 4 characteristics of the New Monasticism in his book Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World, published in 1998:

  •  it will be "marked by a recovery of the telos of this world" revealed in Jesus, and aimed at the healing of fragmentation, bringing the whole of life under the lordship of Christ;
  •  it will be aimed at the "whole people of God" who live and work in all kinds of contexts, and not create a distinction between those with sacred and secular vocations;
  • it will be disciplined, not by a recovery of old monastic rules, but by the joyful discipline achieved by a small group of disciples practicing mutual exhortation, correction, and reconciliation; and
  • it will be "undergirded by deep theological reflection and commitment," by which the church may recover its life and witness in the world (p72-75).

...4 statements that, I think, are proving themselves to be prophetically accurate in characterizing the movement.

OK, SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR ME?

In short, I don't know. 

But I suspect it means something, and I hope you'll consider what that might be. And remember, the invitation is always open tocome & see...

This writing was largely theoretical, I know. That was intentional, as I hoped to provide some foundational understanding of what motivates those of us pursuing this sort of life-together. However, there are plenty of places to read stories about the day-in-and-day-out practicalities and experiences in New Monastic life, which surely get closer to the heart of all this.

Here are a few of the many places you can find those stories:

  • britneywinnlee.com Gandhi Got Out Again: A Blog About Intentional Community (Stories from neighborhood life here in Shreveport)
  • jonathanwilsonhartgrove.com New Monastic Leader, Founder of Rutba House & School(s) for Conversion
  • redletterchristians.org Red Letter Christians' Goal: To take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture, and especially embracing the lifestyle prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount.
  • The list of books we read as part of the Yellow House internship. Great stories. Great resources.
  • Reba Place Fellowship, a community in Chicago, IL
  • The Simple Way, a community in Philadelphia, PA

Note to the reader 

I've grieved the lack of understanding &/or the misrepresentation of this movement lately, and it's moved me to share some words from my very small perspective, from our very small corner here in Highland to attempt even a brief overview of the New Monasticism–one of integrity, one that might make a little sense. One that I hope at least sparks curiosity, clears up a few things, &/or opens a mind or 2 to the possibilities that such a lifestyle holds for the Church and the world, for families and individuals, for adults and children, for people and environment, for neighborhoods and cities, for countries and the world.

Thank you for reading,

Sarah Duet (YH Intern Director)

Heaven on Earth



 Kyle Bickham, YH Intern Director

Kyle Bickham, YH Intern Director

My wife, Hailey and I were recently blessed with our first son, Cohen James Bickham. To say that our perspective of life and love have changed would be a profound understatement. And keeping with the theme of new life in this season of change, God is also giving birth to new ideas and revelations in my spirit on a daily basis through the Yellow House of Highland in Shreveport, LA.

 

I’d been searching for deeper purpose in Shreveport for months. And two days after Cohen’s birth, I received a phone call from Britney offering me a position as an intern director at the Yellow House. (If ever a selfie were in order, it would have been at that moment because I wish so badly that I could have captured the goofy smile on my face). I’d been a resident for a while at Yellow House, catching a glimpse of the transforming power of intentional community. I knew that the friendships, teachings, awkward moments and side-splitting laughter of those 8 months would equip me for God’s work somehow. And now I get to invest more fully into what I believe to be one of the best expressions of Heaven on Earth: New Monasticism.

 

It took me a while to learn how to pronounce (and spell) the name for this new/old movement that has been growing in the hearts of intentional communities around the world. And it’s taking me even longer to allow the teachings to sink into my soul and invade my everyday life. But as I learn more about the simple but challenging Marks of New Monasticism that unite these communities, I see more of Jesus in my life and the lives of those around me. Things like shared economics and hospitality become a reality when neighbors down the street offer to help out with 6 months of our rent and offer up their guest room when our AC goes out (5 times this Summer and counting). My wife and I have witnessed and experienced what happens when neighbors simply choose to follow the teachings of Jesus. And we’re convicted to give ourselves to seeing more of it in our city.

 

New Monasticism takes us back to the old monastic traditions and explores ways to live out the Gospel in the abandoned places of our world. Many in our generation have sensed a need for renewal in the Body of Christ, and I’m certain that I’ve stumbled upon an incredible sign of hope in what God is doing here. It’s my dream that all believers would have a similar experience. Heaven comes to Earth when God’s people love their neighbors unconditionally, welcome the stranger, and hammer their swords into plowshares.

-Kyle Bickham

APPLICATIONS OPEN FOR 2014/2015!

The Yellow House has opened the application process for our Aug’14 – May'15 internship. We’ll be taking applications from now until the end of March!

The internship is an intimate, transformational opportunity for young adults to live in intentional community while taking part in teachings and daily service in the context of an at-risk neighborhood. Interns spend their mornings working at their own respective part time jobs, and spend each afternoon Monday – Thursday learning and serving together in the neighborhood. Interns contribute $200 a month to help cover the communal utilities. We are looking to fill 2 girl’s rooms and 3 guy’s rooms for the upcoming year, and would love your help finding those people who will make our experience and our neighborhood better! 21 and up (or out of college) is the age requirement.

Applications close at the end of March, and acceptance letters will be sent out at the first of May. If you have any questions, you can email us at yellowhousehighland@gmail.com for more information or request an application here. Thanks so much for taking time to read, and we hope you'll consider helping us spread the news!

 

 

Thanks again,

Britney Lee, Sarah Duet, and the Yellow House Family