Nov 13, 2009

Go the Second Mile

Someone asked me recently why the name for this blog: “One Mile Mosser?”

One reason I suppose is that last year Ken Diehm and I came up with an idea for a ministry focus that had to do with ministry near our churches. We called it a “One Mile Mission.”

Our church, FUMC Arlington Texas, is a large urban congregation whose membership is gradually trickling out toward the suburbs. For several decades our congregation and our immediate geographical neighborhood has been in a severe change mode. Some have noticed it; many have not. Yet we have many people here—in Hebrew Bible terms “a loyal” or “faithful remnant” that has boldly (and inconveniently) decided to continue to worship here in the heart of urban Arlington. For those dedicated to this congregation and the mission area in which we find ourselves we now focus on others as much as ourselves. Radical? Perhaps. Like a good Rabbi, this church’s radical loyalty reminds me of a story.

Before dying, Rabbi Zusya said to his disciples, “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses? Why were you not David? Why were you not Abraham?’ No. In the world to come they will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?’ ”

As is a constant and legitimate question of Jesus’ disciples, we ask ourselves who and what we should be. Maybe subsequent to that question is another: Why have we not been what we should? There is much for us to learn from Rabbi Zusya’s question.

Church members ask me intermittently “why can’t our church be more like White’s Chapel UMC (in Southlake) or more like FUMC, Mansfield?” Granted we used to be something like those churches—maybe better (?)—then. But now—we are much different. Now God calls us to respond to our neighborhood community and to offer the gospel as a “regional church” might offer the good news of Jesus Christ. We have not been in reality “a suburban” church for at least twenty-five years or more and perhaps it is an act of faithfulness to notice.

To paraphrase a rabbi: “In the coming world, they will not ask FUMC, Arlington: ‘Why were you not Arbor Lawn UMC? Why were you not First UMC, Plano? Why were you not First UMC, Wichita Falls?’ No. In the world to come they will ask: ‘Why were you not FUMC, Arlington?’ ”

Thus I propose to our entire congregation, via Church Council, that we adopt a strategy that goes even beyond what we called the “One Mile Mission” last year. In the year 2010 I want us to explore what it would mean for our congregation to “go the second mile.” As Jesus said, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:41-42). Can we “Go the Second Mile” for Jesus in 2010?

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