A Christmas Message from Becoming Church

Becoming Church, an offshoot of the Church of the Saviour in Washington D.C., is an intentional Christian community devoted to racial and economic justice. Their major project at the moment is Reunion, a ministry that re-integrates formerly incarcerated people into civilian life, as well as doing activism for prison reform. I blogged about my inspiring visit to their weekend conference last year.

Their latest newsletter included some timely and challenging reflections by Rev. Becca Stelle, the Director of Becoming Church, which I am excerpting below. Please consider donating to this unique and worthwhile ministry.

I recently saw a sticker on the back of a car: “Give Jesus a Chance.” My first reaction was that the slogan projected too simplistic a faith, but in giving the off-handed language itself a chance, it began to resonate with possibility.

Our world is caught in terror and division, hostility and fear—between neighbors, between nations. Black against white; Muslim against Christian; Republican against Democrat; always, oddly, us against ourselves.  As our global degradation pushes us to consider new paradigms—some more palatable than others—we could do worse than to consider what Jesus offers.  Do we ever hear compassion or mercy as a legitimate political, economic or development strategy? Can you imagine? To give Jesus a chance would mean giving God’s love-strategy an honest political chance in a world bent on hatred; forgiveness a chance in a world steeped in vindication; reconciliation a chance in a world committed to war; hope a chance in a world consumed by despair. The proposition seems all the more laughable as circumstances appear increasingly extreme.

This is not the only way in which we are called to give Jesus a chance. The phrase has a double entendre.  In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus identifies with the sick, hungry, homeless and the prisoner.  “When did we see you hungry and feed you?”  “When you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.”  In other words, Jesus is saying, “Clothe me, feed me, visit me in prison.  Give me a chance!”

Men and women coming home from incarceration face crippling obstacles to successful re-integration into the community.  A fortunate few have a roof overhead through Jubilee Housing’s Re-entry program.  Others secure employment through Jubilee Jobs.  As important as those services are, the sustained need for belonging and purpose remains.  All of them—all of us—need a spiritual community where our deepest inner impasse can be transformed by Love to its fullest potential.  For us, to give Jesus a chance is to know Charles and to be known by him; to keep him in prayer; to arrange a job interview for Charles; to help him with car repairs to get to that job; to wait out his anxiety; to talk him out of self-defeat; to pay the court fees imposed which he could not possibly manage on his minimum-wage, part-time income; and to watch Charles grow in confidence that he is important to our community; that he can give back; that he is a blessing. Even then, it’s not so much that we are giving Jesus a chance, but somehow Jesus is giving us a chance—to move from our societal plague of separation to become the whole, healing people God created us to be.

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