A newly-wed couple in our fellowship invited Marianne and me to a Super Bowl party at their apartment last night.
Marianne couldn’t make it because she needed to finish her lesson plans for the week (she’s an elementary school teacher), so I went.
When I showed up, I was blessed to see some old friends – including guys I knew from the surrounding woods. That evening, we enjoyed lots of good food and good times as we hung out and watched the game together.
The couple hosting that party is struggling, like many, to make ends meet. They’ve been married less than six months (I had the honor of performing the wedding ceremony), and only a month or two ago they finally were able to move out of a boarding house into their own apartment.
Although their furnishings are “hand-me-down chic” (weren’t we all there at one time!), their apartment is filled with a warmth, hospitality and joy that makes folks feel right at home.
Despite their own needs, many of the people crowed into that tiny apartment were men they drove around and gathered up from the surrounding woods.
They didn’t make any big deal about it, and in fact I didn’t even know that was their intent until I showed up and saw some guys I knew from the woods, and others I hadn’t met before.
The most remarkable thing, though, was that they didn’t treat the men as “ministry”, but as friends – because they were friends.
At one point during the game, I noticed the husband was gone, which I thought was odd.
About fifteen minutes later he came in the door with another motley crowd of his closest friends from the surrounding woods. They settled in and felt right at home, as we razzed each other over who was scoring, who was fumbling, and all the other things that make watching the Super Bowel with friends lots of fun.
The husband – as just part of his normal life – often goes out of his way to talk to, hang with and be part of the lives of men living in the woods in his end of the county. They know him, and he knows them, as friends. His wife is just as natural, open and embracing, and they are now part of her life too.
Last night, as we enjoyed the food and the fellowship and the game together, there was no sense of “ministry” to “those guys”. We were just folks hangin’ out and having a good time.
There was no awkward “other” that is so common with the arms-length “programs” and “missions” – which legitimately provide needed help, but too often are a substitute for truly relating as peers with our brothers and sisters who are homeless.
I have found that although the homeless appreciate help, they really just want to be treated as normal folk – as friends who we value as part of our lives, without any pretense.
Later, as I loaded up a plate of food to take home to Marianne, I pulled the husband aside and told him how proud I was over the way he and his wife opened their home to the homeless. He looked embarrassed, but finally said this was what he and his wife felt called to do. I then hugged him and left.
There seems to be such angst these days over what discipleship means, how to “do” it, and otherwise trying to over-analyze it.
I guess I just don’t get too caught up in all that stuff.
For example, in our fellowships we have those who are homeless and those who were homeless – and regardless of our status in life, we open our homes, our tents and our lives to each other. We never had to “teach” this or create some “program” to make it happen. It is just part of our spiritual DNA.
What this couple did last night is normal for us. We don’t even think anything of it. In fact, I am constantly amazed as I learn of “this and that” being done by our folk – often from others. To us, it is no big deal because expressing what God motivates us to do is just a natural part of who we were created to be in Christ.
Through our lives together, we affirm in each other who God created us each to be, and in expressing our diverse gifts and callings.
To me, that is the mark of true discipleship.
Affirming Each Other
Our fellowships were able to affirm – and release – in that couple their natural, God-given gift of joy, friendship and hospitality. No one needed to sit them down and tell them what their gifts were or how to fulfill them.
Instead, we love them and support them and affirm the things that God is naturally stirring in them to be and do. As part of our lives together, we also gather, pray and worship – while sharing scripture, experience, and what God is saying and doing in each other.
We don’t, however, have any “discipleship program” – although those who are gifted in certain things will train others with similar interests.
Mostly, we are role models one to another, and mentor each other by being transparent and living the kind of faith that sees no tension between “being” and “doing”.
We also take literally Jesus’ own words:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.‘
“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them,’‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matt. 25:34-40)
As I drove home last night, I felt so honored to be connected with that couple, as we express together the life of Christ in us, among us and through us – each according to our gifts, motivations and God-given callings.
We don’t need some “discipleship program” for that to happen.
In authentic community – where we are each encouraging and supporting one other as we all go and do the things God created each of us to do – it just sort of naturally happens.
I think we are on the right track with “discipleship”.
Last night, I saw it happening in the lives of that couple, and in the lives they in turn are touching with the heart of God.