Sunday, March 30, 2008

Can't Give What We Don't Have

We can't give what we don't have.

St. Patrick entered Ireland (the land of his previous slavery) with a small band of brothers and sisters to bring Christ into their midst. In less than 30 years, he was responsible for starting over 3,000 churches across the isle.

His strategy was relatively simple. In the leading and power of God's Spirit, his group entered a community, extended love, lived the rhythms of kingdom life in their midst, and invited them into it. Locals would see Patrick and his community and notice something special and good in it. They interacted with it, came to belong, and - in the process - discovered that they believed in Patrick's Christ - this God who affected people so wonderfully.

Believers would be baptized, give public proclamation of their belief, and continue in their discipleship journey of growth. It was a communal affair in which belonging led to belief. People were not convinced by words but experienced the communal, life-giving, kingdom of God, first-hand. Just as Jesus says in Luke 17,
The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, "Look, here it is!" or, "There it is!" For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst (within you).
If that's the kingdom - a supernatural, communal, "in your midst", expression of Christ - then how many who proclaim the kingdom are experiencing it?

Do our communal lives look so different from the relationships of the world? Is there a supernatural difference in our love, interaction, generosity, accountability, sacrifice, conversation, power, travel-agendas, housing arrangements, meal-taking, resource-sharing, difference-making... Is there any more life? Or is our witness of a radical, life-giving God little more than hyper-individualistic, self-helping, empty words that aim at heaven while missing earth?

We can't give what we don't have.

Christ's kingdom-life is waiting for us. He calls us to it... He commands us to it. It's here to be embraced right now. God is ready to lead each of us into it if we will only trust and obey. It's a lifestyle that will change us and change our witness. May we have the wisdom of St. Patrick - who traded away his life of worldly preference for an eternal kingdom, and reached a nation because of it.

Holy Father, be honored as we obey You.
Incarnated Son, be glorified as we imitate You.
Guiding Spirit, be pleased as we follow You.

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