Nine years ago, Pastor Linda Presley convened a gathering of other pastors and city leaders to work toward opening a winter warming shelter. She didn’t draft a plan all on her own. Instead she called this team together to imagine, to share our experiences, and to plan. Remarkably, in three short months we opened a shelter! Over the past nine years, with the input of shelter guests, volunteers, and other community members, the vision of Hood River Warming Shelter (now Hood River Shelter Services) has grown to encompass not just wholeness for the individuals experiencing homelessness but also to begin to address the issues behind homelessness in our community and our inward attitudes toward those living outside. Together, we’re working toward an attitude of shalom.
As I wrote of in my last post, the fullness of shalom must be both an inward and outward journey. It is both personal and corporate. It would be tempting to separate these two aspects into the personal-inward journey and corporate-outward journey, as if one can exist in isolation of the other. That would be a mistake. There is only one journey and the inward-outward, personal-corporate parts of that journey are so tightly wound together we do injustice to God’s radical shalom by trying to untangle them.
My front yard hospitality garden is an example of a different approach than Pastor Linda used. As God compelled me to think about how my front yard could become an invitation to hospitality and I began to design what that might look like, God was working on some of my internal and personal issues and helping me to move forward. (posts about this adventure coming in early spring) But guess what? Although that was a great inspiration motivated by a desire to cultivate community, I didn’t intentionally invite my neighbors to help envision what it would look like. To be sure, God’s shalom was at work, but I had divided the outward and corporate aspects of shalom from the personal work God was doing in me. I invited my neighbors into what I had already created by myself. While God has still used this feeble attempt, I know that God’s shalom might have been more fully released in community, in a corporate approach to design.
Last week I explored the inward journey of shalom. The inward journey, although very personal — dealing with my attitudes and my issues — is also corporate and outward. These internal hang ups impact others by putting obstacles in their pathway to shalom. They also hamstringing my ability to live God’s radical shalom with others more fully into the world around me.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death. — Philippians 2:5-8 The Message
The outward journey of shalom requires the inward journey of shalom and the inward journey of shalom requires the outward journey of shalom. It is a dance of obedience and action, personal transformation and community transformation, and we see it expressed beautifully in the incarnation of Jesus.
Living into the radical shalom of God may look quite different from one community to another. Just as God works individually on our hearts, revealing what needs to be healed and changed at the appropriate time, I believe God similarly reveals brokenness within communities in a way that gradually leads in the direction of the fullness of God’s shalom. That is a journey you must engage in on a local level.
But there is an even grander scale to God’s shalom. While we may think events outside our community or life experience don’t involve us, movements arise in other communities that require us all to speak out on behalf of God’s shalom.
- When injustices threaten lands, cultures, and health — such as the current protests by Indigenous people in North Dakota — this is a shalom issue.
- When Black, Brown, and Native people are systematically targeted and jailed at rates much higher than their white brothers and sisters and shot at even higher rates, this is a shalom issue.
- When refugees and asylum seekers are targeted, denied help and perpetual wars continue to kill, maim, and drive people from their homes, this is a shalom issue.
- When children go hungry, this is a shalom issue.
- When those living outside are ignored and worse, this is a shalom issue.
The list goes on and on, but the message of Jesus is clear: together we are to be the hands and feet of God’s shalom in the world. When we pray as Jesus taught us, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, we are essentially praying that we will live faithfully into Jesus’ message of healing, hope, and restoration for the whole world. That becomes even more clear when we reach the part that says, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”.
- How is your journey going?
- Who are you walking with?
- How are you discerning together the way of shalom in your community and within your own heart and mind?
This is not a solo pilgrimage. Shalom is the pathway of community faithfully living together the full expression of salvation through Christ into the world.