Shalom from a box of parts

Sometimes I feel like I live in a remix of that bar scene in Star Wars where a bizarre menagerie of life forms find themselves hanging out together. I write this from Tubigen Germany after flying from an afternoon at Horseshoe Lake, Arkansas (the cyprus is not in Tubigen).

The Horseshoe lake lunch was at the home of John and Anne Stokes with other major Memphis leaders who had been through the Life of Leaders experience a few months ago. Life of Leaders is an intense time of guided discernment for groups of 10-12 people put on by Methodist Healthcare and The Church Health Center. It includes pretty much everything medical that you’d experience at someplace like Mayo, but also a more comprehensive range of psychological, spiritual and social aspects. The point of the whole thing is to enhance the leaders capacity to lead a life of value and change-making. That has many aspects, so reflecting back on what happened since their intense time together, some shared medical journeys both profound and mundane while others found themselves drawn into a deep search for meaning.

Some of the group had attended an unveiling of a report from “the shalom project” which is an attempt to gather the energies of the evangelical christians in Memphis to fix the city ( Like Life of Leaders, the project is bold in its expansiveness, but social, not individual. But nothing at personal or social levels changes without transformational relationships. There is no escaping transformation in every aspect.

The highly privileged leaders at the lake ended up talking mostly about their relationship to the poor and how their lives would be measured by whether they advanced God’s vision of justice. The Shalom Project looks hopes for broad shalom, but stressed the explicit need for old fashioned Calvinist repentance and salvation as the starting point. I helped write part of their report and I am about 400 years from Calvin.

Putting aside for a minute the specific components of needed change (personal or social), let me ask a question: How much do we have to think the same about Jesus, global warming, sex, vitamin D, Obama, hunting ducks, and eating cows in order to find the future together?

Does the future of the planet (or even little Memphis) depend on coming to agreement with each other? The question is unavoidable here in Tubigen, where we are convened by the World Council of Churches, which has 300+ denominations, not counting close working relationships with Adventists, Catholics and Pentecostals. This is a theological scene as edgy and explosive as the Star Wars bar, but for higher stakes–a real planet.

It is said that “it takes all kinds.” Does it? How exactly does a leader live like that?

The clue may be that “in the beginning was the Word” which was not a creed, book, blueprint (or blog). It was more like an image, an idea, a hunch, in the mind of God of what might be possible. So it is with every beginning and every restarted effort that we will need to find our way from here. We move toward a word, an image. And that may well take all kinds, or at least a very great cloud of kinds. Ideas and experiences–including painful and failed detours that we talked about at Horseshoe Lake–can be parts of new images of what is possible.

The vision of shalom is assembled out of a box of parts like you might find in an old garage. I still have a jar of screws that my father collected decades before he passed away and passed them onto me nearly 20 years ago. I don’t throw away those screws because you just don’t know when you’ll need just that one. And I am loathe to draw lines between useful and non-useful people. You just don’t know when you’ll need just that one. I would hope for something of that optimistic humility when leaders try to find the parts out of which to assemble the future. “Okay, we know the parts we need are in here somewhere…….”

– Posted on the journey

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Professor, Faith and the Health of the Public, Wake Forest University School of Divinity. NC Certified Beekeeper Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders, Religion and the Heath of the Public, Speak Life and God and the People. God and the People: Prayers for a Newer New Awakening. Secretary Stakeholder Health. Founder, Leading Causes of Life Initiative

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