Tonight’s Bible study was really lovely.
We were small in number, but had a good, deep discussion and the chance to really share and pray together, which is sometimes hard in bigger groups.
One member took off a bit early to get to an AA meeting, and we cheered him on his way, congratulating him on 13 days of sobriety.
The rest of us spent some time praying. One member prayed “for the guy in the bus shelter, even though he’s crabby with me. I don’t really know why I’m praying for him… but I love him, and I’ll miss him when he’s gone.” Another prayed for “everyone who thinks that no one loves them.”
Wowzers. What a group.
We, The Dale’s Tuesday night Bible study, are currently reading through the Sermon on the Mount. This week we grappled with the passage where Jesus tells us not to repay evil for evil, but to turn the other cheek. In this same passage Jesus tells us to give more than is asked when someone sues us, do more than is required of us by an authority figure (go an extra mile with a Roman soldier, in Jesus’ context), and to give freely to those who ask to borrow from us.
We talked about how these things do not constitute a new set of laws that Jesus asks us to follow legalistically, but are examples of the kind of people that we will be when we are transformed by his love. We are to choose the Kingdom alternative to the usual “fight or flight” options; we are to show genuine concern for the person in front of us, despite the fact that they are not showing concern for us. By choosing love over anger, we turn the situation upside down.
We also talked about how this is much easier to talk about than to do! We asked the tough questions, like “what about genocide? What about abusive relationships? Should the other cheek always be turned?!” We talked about how the Bible makes it clear that oppression and injustice are not God’s will, and that we are called to act on behalf of those who are treated unfairly.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been noticing that when conflicts arise at The Dale, it often has to do with the perceived need to defend one’s honour, to make it known that one is not vulnerable, etc. I totally understand that impulse. And yet we are called to be a people who turn the other cheek, in an act of counter cultural love…
We also frequently encounter situations where a member of our community is experiencing abuse, coercion or marginalization, and we are called to be a people who name, challenge and oppose oppression and injustice…
Lord, may we learn to read and apply your word faithfully, in a world that is anything but straightforward. May we learn to love others in the self sacrificial and counter cultural way that you love us, and also take seriously your call to seek justice for the oppressed.
My friend “Matt”, the person doing battle with addictions who I wrote about in the last “Beautiful moments” post, is continuously astounding me with deep, faith-filled one liners. On Tuesday, he told me that he was at another drop-in where some people were giving him a hard time. So he went into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and said to himself “Trust in the Lord. Not in other people. Just trust in the Lord.” He told me, “That was it! I came back out, feeling a lot better.” Beautiful.
On Tuesday evening I showed up to Bible Study at Coffee Time, and there were already 12 people gathered. By the end, there were 18 of us altogether!! I was totally blown away and a little bit overwhelmed. I gave the group the option of splitting up into smaller groups, but almost everyone responded immediately with a resounding “No!” These folks came out on a Tuesday night to study the Bible, and to be together. Beautiful.
On Wednesday morning we had our art drop-in, and were joined by a youth group from Tillsonburg. Some of the youth were eager to do some sketching, while others hung back. A long-time member of the community, who is a prolific paper cut-out artist, encouraged some of the less eager youth to try their hand at paper-cutting. He patiently taught them his craft, encouraging them and giving them pointers. Beautiful.
On Wednesday night, Steve and I were on outreach, and spent some time in Tim Hortons. A friend joined us for a while, and we had a good chat. As he was leaving, he turned around and said “The peace of the Lord be with you!”
This afternoon a friend came into the Thrift Store for our coffee/chat drop-in, and excitedly showed me a book he’d taken out of the library about the teachings of Jesus. Tonight he came to our Bible Study at Coffee Time. He’s feeling determined to turn a new page, do battle with his addictions, and has decided to rely on Jesus and community on this journey. Beautiful.
At the end of Bible Study, I chatted with the Coffee Time employee who often works on Tuesday nights. She is very gracious about our sometimes-rowdy group, and we’ve gotten to know each other a bit, over the months. I told her tonight that, if she wanted, we would be happy to pray for anything she asked us to pray for. I was thinking along the lines of health/family/work struggles that she might have. Instead, without missing a beat or batting an eye, she said “World peace. Pray for people in the world who are in trouble, like in Syria.” Beautiful.
I just got off the phone with a dear friend who has been in the shelter system for over a year. She phoned to let me know that she had finally been given an over-flow bed in one of the city’s women’s shelters. As usual, she asked me to pray for her, and then she prayed for me. She prayed that I would sleep well tonight, and know that I am loved.