The campus ministry went on our fall retreat this past weekend. Our goal was to work on solidifying this community for a new semester, and because I helped plan, there were arts & crafts.
For me, artistic expression in whatever medium has always been fundamental to my sense of self. Smearing paint on paper (or the nearest available surface) is a sort of meditative, prayerful state for me that’s not quite like anything else. And it’s not even necessarily about the finished product, most of the time — it’s the sense of peace and wholeness and me-ness of the process, and of making something beautiful.
So as we’re thinking about creating community on this retreat, one of the key ideas is that real community means not just that each of us are welcome, but that all the parts of ourselves are welcome. Not just the cool interesting parts, but the parts we’ve learned to hide, learned to protect, because they’ve kept us out before. The weird parts, the embarrassing and nerdy and colorful parts, those have to be welcome too.
Our first craft project was a memory of those times we’ve been kept out. We remembered those times, and some of us shared the stories, and we all offered up those memories into the bonfire.
Mine was a memory of churches who try to tone down the radicalness of Jesus. Who pretend this was a blue-eyed white guy who just wanted us to pay our taxes and bow to the emperor and be a little bit nicer to each other. Because when we as the church try to keep out the itinerant radical Jesus, the one who broke laws and invited the “unclean” people to dinner, the one who gave us hope for a new kind of reality where the whole social order is turned on its head — when we keep out that Jesus we keep out people who are on the edges today. We keep some people out altogether, and we force those who do come in to hide their broken parts, their needy parts, their beautifully weird parts.
When we make church too small for the beautiful variety of people God created, we attempt to make God small. And we certainly can’t have a real community if people can’t bring their whole selves into it.
The Jesus who caught my imagination, and who is the reason I still call myself Christian in the face of all the awful things that have been done in the name of Christianity, that Jesus actually went looking for people on the margins. Not to fix them, but to bring their whole selves around the table. But of course, that kind of behavior gets you crucified, then and now.
so play your favorite cover song, especially if the words are wrong
‘cos even if your grades are bad, it doesn’t mean you’re failing
do your homework with a fork
and eat your fruit loops in the dark
and bring your etch-a-sketch to work
and play your ukulele
(Download that here!)