“…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
In Part 1 of this post, I talked mostly about the journey I have been on for the past several years of God bringing me and my wife, Chrissy, to the crossroads where we plan to change directions in our lives. In this next part, I hope to move forward on the map and describe where we are going and the ideas behind it.
We met Eric and Mira during our childbirth classes, preparing for our new little ones. Over the course of months after that initial meeting, we began to get to know them and discovered a dream we had in common: the dream to live in a home with other people. It is a strange dream to have in common, but God makes things happen that could not happen otherwise. We were not prepared to start such a venture on our own, but with friends who already had the vision, we were excited to join up with them.
They introduced us to the third family in our group, Michael and Susan, and the rest is history! Actually, it is a much slower and involved process than that implies, but it is a story for another time. What I will say is that God brought us all together just as he has been bringing influences of my spiritual ideas together to form a vision of what it is to be God’s people.
As part of that vision, I have begun to understand the nature of the church differently—and, I believe, more fully—as I encountered more theological understanding, more personal experience, and more spiritual growth. One of the biblical passages that has become a go-to text for me is Colossians 3, particularly verses 12-17:
“12 Therefore, clothe yourselves, as God’s chosen people, holy and loved, with compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 putting up with each other and forgiving each other if anyone has any cause for complaint (just as the Lord forgives you, you need to do the same). 14 Above all these things, clothe yourselves with love, which is the bond that produces completeness. 15 Also, let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts, for being one body, you were called to peace, and be thankful. 16 Let Christ’s message dwell among you richly, teaching and advising each other with all wisdom, singing in psalms, praise songs, and spiritual songs graciously in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, let everything be relative to Lord Jesus’ name, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (My own translation).
I will let you look into this passage at length on your own if you desire, but I just want to point out that first we are given an identity as God’s people, the ones he has chosen, and as such we are dedicated to a purpose and loved by God. Based on that identity, we ought to live in tune with it, which means building character traits and lifestyle changes that foster love and unity toward each other. In so doing, we enter the peace Jesus intended for us, and we lead each other to God.
As part of how Chrissy and I have tried to live in line with these concepts, we have chosen to create an environment not only conducive to simplicity, prayer, and spiritual disciplines but also one in which we have the opportunity to practice these characteristics daily. We are partnering in an effort to start a household founded on these values, on love for God, each other, and others.
We value the stability of relationships committed to the long-term. We value the stability of being rooted in one place in order to establish meaningful connections with the people nearby and going deeper with the people in our lives. (I highly recommend The Wisdom of Stability by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove if you are interested in exploring these ideas more.)
The form these values are taking is the creation of a missional community. The household of our three families is not just a building filled with roommates. We are committed to helping each other grow, promoting relationships with Jesus and people. We are committed to serving the people of our neighborhood and our city. We dream of living simply, planting a garden, working with our hands, and facilitating empowering communication and community among the people with whom we come in contact. We see ourselves as an expression of God’s mission to humanity, a branch of Christ’s church, and a representation of God to his people.
It sounds like a tall order, and we probably will have difficulty living up to it. But the good news is that we depend not on ourselves to accomplish it all, but we depend on Jesus and on so many other people who are partnering with us to make it all happen, and we don’t expect it to appear as a complete reality all at once but to be steps we learn as we go.
This dance we are learning, the dance of community and stability, the dance of a new type of monasticism is a dream we have dreamed together and with our friends and our Lord we are daring to make a reality.
The dance may be new, but the song is quite old. We dance to an ancient tune.
We are forming something new that fits with who we are, that fits with the people and place around us. But it is grounded in the ancient wisdom of Desert Fathers and saints throughout history and Scripture. Chrissy and I are committing to a new direction, a new way to navigate friendships, worship, and family. Not only that, but we are committing to a new expression of church life and worshiping Jesus. We hear the music of ancient aspects of life and of living with and for God, but the dance we are learning is unique and particular to us and our group. It is our response of worship to the music God gives us.
I invite you to do two things. First, I invite you, if you wish, to find out more of our journey. We would love to have others involved in what we are doing, whether that means you simply pray for us or that means you find a way to live in a community home like ours. Maybe it is somewhere in between. You can connect with our community here: The Portland Jeremiah House. Second, I invite you to listen to the song Jesus sings and then discover your own dance, however that may look in your context with the people and in the place where you live.