Call Me “The Bait”
After Sunday’s Easter Celebration, I cannot help but gush a bit today. I can honestly say that I have never felt the truth that Jesus is really alive quite the same way that I felt it in church on Easter morning. Maybe it was dancing in aisles to the sounds of the choir and Nakai’s djembe. Maybe it was the ring of Janell’s trumpet, which always touches my heart, not only because of the beauty of its sound but also because of the beauty of the soul that gives it breath. Maybe it was the majestic combination of the flag waving twenty feet above my head, the rose petals falling from the sky, and the traditional Puerto Rican dancing. Or maybe it was the child who couldn’t stop giggling every time Bishop J said “But!” I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was, but this past Sunday morning, I KNEW with every bone in my body that Jesus is alive, that good is greater than evil, that God has conquered sin and death, that love wins.
But it’s not just the Easter worship service. There is something special about this church that increases my faith in the living God every single day. I often get to hear people talk about how The Church of the Village has had an impact on their lives, and today I want to add my own testimony of one way God has reached me through this church.
I came to The Church of the Village almost two years ago, and some have told me that I was hired to be “the bait” of the church, which means that—on paper—my youth, my race, and my progressive outlook should appeal to the kinds of people who are currently living in the Village. And the idea is that—if we just dangle someone like me out the bell tower window onto 7th Avenue, the people who live nearby will smell that young, biracial, highly educated, progressive meat and come running. Now, I know there is some silliness in assuming that the demographics of a leader are the only things that predict their effectiveness. But I want to tell you how being the bait of Church of the Village has touched me.
I have so many colleagues in the ministry who are loved and respected by their churches in spite of their youth, even though they are women, without regard for their different ethnic heritage, notwithstanding their unique perspective, albeit their progressive politics. I never realized until now what a huge difference it makes to come into a congregation that believes in me precisely because of my youth, that sees my potential because I am a woman, that is grateful for my different ethnic heritage, that has faith in my future success because of my unique perspective, that celebrates my progressive politics. It is the difference between tolerating diversity and rejoicing in diversity. It is the difference between the anxiety of proving myself to skeptics and the privilege of living up to high expectations.
I cannot remember another time in my life when someone looked me up and down and said, “Yep—that’s exactly what we were looking for.” It’s a feeling like no other. It’s a feeling that I wish all of my clergy colleagues could have. It’s a feeling every other person in this world should have. Mostly because I know that’s how God sees all of us. God looks at us—God’s own beloved creations—in all of our uniqueness, and says, “Yep—that’s exactly what I was looking for!”
This is one of the things our church does best. We’re not perfect at it, but we really give it our best shot. We genuinely try to see each other the way God sees us. We try to rejoice in our diversity. We don’t love you in spite of your uniqueness, but because of it. You are valued because you are gay, because you are Black, because you challenge us, because English is your second language, because you have overcome so much, because you don’t have it all figured out yet. I give so much thanks for this church, for the way it has made me feel God’s love for all of my uniqueness, and for the way it has done and will do the same for so many other people in our community.
I end my gushing testimony with a love note Paul once wrote to a church he loved in Philippi.
3I thank my God every time I remember you, 4constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
7It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.
9And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
(This was originally shared as a devotion on one of Church of the Village’s Wednesday morning prayer calls. Join us any Wednesday morning at 7am for 20 minutes of devotion and prayer. Ph: 559-546-1200, Code: 533-689-191#)