August 2017

Greetings Gayton Road,
As I write this (on Saturday), the temperature outside is 68 degrees and there’s a snappy breeze. The high today is projected to be 70. Rainy or not, I’m loving it! Summer affords us refreshment in different ways. Time outdoors, reunion with family and friends, road trips, vacation—or simply the gift of nice weather.
I wish you refreshment this last full month of summer.
Lately the drama of our nation’s government has led me to contemplate a simple question. What is authority? Is it a loud voice? An iron fist? The force of law? Is it control—getting what you want? If we defined authority by what we see at our highest levels of government, I think these terms would suffice.
But I recently learned that the word itself—“authority”—preserves an ancient secret. Buried under hundreds of years is a very different meaning. The word “authority” comes from the Latin word augere—“to grow.”
This presents an entirely different picture of authority. It brings to mind images of growth: a gardener sowing and tending. A shepherd caring for a flock. A source of water bringing life. A parent who loves her child and leads her and lets her grow into the fullness of life. Is it a coincidence that we find these images in the Bible as metaphors for God?
As I reflect on our church, I catch glimpses of a similar sort of authority. Recently the church selected a new set of officers—leaders. What have they been doing in the last month? From what I’ve seen, they’ve been asking, listening, and caring; they’ve been inviting, encouraging, and calling; they’ve been inspiring, empowering, and equipping. They have not exercised force or compulsion as the world does (cf. Matt 20:25). Quite the opposite. They have looked not to their own interests but to the interests of others, thinking carefully and creatively about the unique gifts of individuals and how these gifts might be cultivated.
I wonder if this kind of authority isn’t more radical and revolutionary than we realize. I wonder if this kind of authority isn’t what our hurting and divided world needs. I wonder, in fact, if this kind of authority might not be the kingdom of God on earth “as it is in heaven.”
Whatever it is, what I see at Gayton Road gives me hope for our world. May the life and love of God continue to growamong us, and may we shine on this earth with the witness of God’s kingdom.
Yours,
Jonathan

July 2017

Summer has arrived! It is hot and humid out, but also full of life. The scuttling about of critters, the song of birds and crickets and cicadas, the heavens crackling with stormy energy—it is as though all of creation has risen to life together, sky and stream, cattle and creeping thing, all together in chorus with one another.

I cannot help but be reminded of the creation story that we read a few weeks ago (Genesis 1:1-2:4a). There God called, and things responded. God called, “Let there be! Let there be!” and things responded. They grew, they bore fruit, they moved this way and that in a beautiful dance. Whereas much of the world thinks of creation as a solitary construction project, Genesis presents it as a call and response.

How deeply creation echoes in the summer! Right before our eyes, we see all sorts of responses to God’s call to life.

What about in our own lives? Do we hear God’s call? How do we respond?

Unfortunately, much of the church has lost a sense of wonder and holiness for the most mundane and earthy things. Sometimes we may get the feeling that God only lives at church, or only visits us on Sundays, or only works through ordained clergy. But these ideas could not be further from the story that the Bible tells. In the Bible, we see God most often not in the temple or on the holy days or in the priests. We see God instead in the daily lives of family and friends and coworkers. Who are the heroes of the Bible? They are not priests. They are shepherds and kings, farmers and tentmakers, carpenters and tax collectors. Which is all to say: God’s call reaches every one of us, everywhere, everyday. God’s call reaches all of us as surely as God’s call reaches the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, the lights in the sky and the plants yielding seed.

How do we hear God’s call in our own lives this summer? How might we respond?

I wish you all a good summer. May the dance of this season bless us with renewal, and may God’s call bring us life as we respond.

Yours,

Jonathan