West! I live in NYC, after all. There's no use in determining a direction if I don't have my bearings first, right?
And I would be remiss to forget where I've come from, to be where I am now, and the myriad reasons. Right now I am geographically in Chicago (visiting). But my heart - my community, church, friends, my life is in NYC. I wasn't sure I'd ever get to that place - where in my heart and soul, in the very core of my being, I would be fully devoted and dedicated to NYC. To God's vision, Kingdom work in that place. After all, the primary reason for moving there, the biggest motivation, was to "learn the ropes," to get to a place spiritually and existentially where I was "ready" to plant a church... anywhere, but my desire was to do so here - in Chicago.
In the process, over these close to eight months, I've learned that church-planting needs to be so much more substantive than just starry-eyed young adults pursuing pipes' dreams of the Kingdom. Indeed, as Tolstoy so aptly said, "the Kingdom of God is within you." Perhaps more accurately, it starts within you - within me. It can spread from there for sure, but that's where it must start. And if it isn't there, if I can't find the Kingdom within me, then I can do nothing. I have no power, no authority. Faith? Obedience? Love? Peace? Any other fruits of the spirit...
Before I could ever think of planting His Church - indeed, planting His Kingdom - don't I first need to have all these and more within me? Don't I first need that relationship, discipleship, grace, wisdom, discernment which can only come by the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus? Lord, help me to believe it! And then to pursue it in full obedience.
So my time in NYC is not merely transitory. I am pursuing God's Kingdom within me, that I might then transfer that love, shalom, redemption, righteousness, etc to the city - be it NYC, Chicago, Bangkok.
My direction, then, is towards the Kingdom - being heavenly-minded, in pursuit of God's Kingdom, that I might bring (live, teach, preach, breathe, eat, drink, pray) shalom to the city. Then, as a church, that we would continue to plant the Kingdom, not just generally in the city but also in the lives of individuals and in the life of our community.
For thine is the Kingdom, the glory, and power forever and ever. Amen.
Rabbi, I want to see you!
What a lofty dream, what a vision for a blind man - the gift of sight. And his faith heals him... AND... he becomes a disciple, he follows Jesus along the road.
It really is an interesting question that Jesus asks him -
"what can I do for you?"
So I have to ask myself: if it was me, what would I say? Granted, I don't believe that Jesus asks this only to the blind or the afflicted with the sole intent of healing them by their faith - but rather to call people afflicted by sin into a life of discipleship, following Jesus "on the road". They need only respond to Jesus in faith, desiring to see his face.
But what does that mean, even now? Today? Jesus no longer roams the earth in our midst. But the holy spirit yet moves. What does the face of the holy spirit look like? How can we see it that we might then follow - in discipleship, in power, authority, humility, peace, and love?
"Gio, what do you want me to do for you?.. think BIG!"
The blind man asked for sight, after all - a pretty lofty prayer. As for me, I want to pray - in faith - for the shalom of this city (Jer 29:7). More than anything I want to see shalom in this place - in your church, in all the people... gay, lesbians, the depressed and lonely, the poor and homeless, police and all other "principalities and powers"... and Jesus I see now that it must start with me. How can I expect there to be shalom in this place when I, just like the rest of the world, do violence to my environment, my friends, my wife, my self, and my God. Yes, even to you. To me. Something's gotta give. Lord, I seek after your righteousness. I need you to invade my heart and command it by your mighty, merciful, and just hands. Only you can take this sick, fallen heart and provide the grace and healing power to make it new.
Help me to understand that you are my God. I want to be obedient. I want to be pure. Blameless. Righteous like you. Then I want to be an agent of peace - of shalom - in this city and the next. Lord, you are great. I am small . Continue to work in and through me. Help me to remove the barriers keeping me from bringing your Kingdom. In the name of your son Jesus. Amen.