Web Meditation 6 April 2009
Last night I went to the Beggars Society, a monthly gathering hosted by the mission organization Word Made Flesh. The speaker was Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove a member of the new monasticism movement. Jonathan doesn't really fit what the words "monk" or "monastic" normally connote. He does not wear a robe. He and his wife have a son. He isn't even Roman Catholic. He's a Protestant Evangelical. Now you might be wondering what my self-proclaimed liberal self was doing hanging out with an Evangelical. Well Jonathan does not really fit in the common perception of that word either. He does, however, love Jesus and take scripture very seriously.
He lives in the Rutba House in Durham, North Carolina, which he and his wife helped found. The 12 people in the community share a common rhythm of life, common resources, and common prayer. Living together in two houses in Durham, they gather for prayers at 7:00 a.m., go off to their respective jobs, and then gather for a common meal and prayers at the end of the day as well. There are married folks and single folks in the community. They are actively trying to live out the community descriptions of the books of Acts. Like I said they take scripture very seriously. He told the story last night of when they formed the community some members thought it was the Christian thing to do to be vegetarian. This stance conflicted with the members of the community who liked eating the southern delicacy known as fired chicken. The community did a SIX MONTH bible study on every single mention of food in the bible as deep and as researched as they could. They decided in the end that the important thing when Christians eat together is that they EAT TOGETHER!
I must admit I was both charmed and humbled by this man. His demeanor was so relaxed and comfortable in his own skin it mesmerized me. He simply loves Jesus, thinks about what that means, and changes his life accordingly. This profoundly simple, but authentic and rich faith, humbled me. I too often get caught in my own head and start worrying about whether I can preach the hard teachings of Jesus and my congregation still like me. Now, I'm not the only clergy person who wonders what people will think if we preach the truth. Shoot, we as group tend to get worked up about what people will think and whether they'll still come to church if we change a light bulb, not to mention the hard teachings of Jesus (for example Matt. 18 and 24:40). I was reminded last night that "it's hard to be Christian in America (New Monasticism P.11)." However the abundance of life, of rich and deep relationships, of happiness, are worth the challenge. I pray that I remain humble and listening to Jesus, to not worry about this world, and focus on building the Kingdom.
This meditation is also posted on the website of the Church of the Resurrection