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Center for Action and Contemplation
Everyone Belongs
Everyone Belongs

Fellowship for All

Friday, January 28, 2022

Brian McLaren invites readers to imagine that they are among the disciples in John’s Gospel, gathering together in Jerusalem after Jesus’ death:

We were afraid that first Sunday night, just three days after Jesus died. Really afraid. We were afraid to go outside in case someone might recognize us as Jesus’ friends and notify the authorities. . . .

So there we remained, tense, jumpy, simmering with anxiety. What happened Friday had been ugly, and we didn’t want it to happen to the rest of us. Every sound startled us. Suddenly, we all felt something, a presence, familiar yet . . . impossible. How could Jesus be among us? . . .

And from that night, we learned something essential about what this uprising is going to be about.

[This uprising of the gospel] isn’t just for brave people, but for scared folks like us who are willing to become brave. It isn’t just for believers, but for doubting folks like Thomas who want to believe in spite of their skepticism. It isn’t just for good people, but for normal, flawed people like you and me and Thomas and Peter.

And I should add that it isn’t just for men, either. It’s no secret that men in our culture often treat women as inferior. Even on resurrection morning, when Mary Magdalene breathlessly claimed that the Lord was risen, the men among us didn’t offer her much in the way of respect. There were all sorts of ignorant comments about “the way women are.” Now we realize the Lord was telling us something by bypassing all of the male disciples and appearing first to a woman. As we look back, we realize he’s been treating women with more respect than the rest of us have right from the start.

We have a term for what we began to experience that night: fellowship. Fellowship is a kind of belonging that isn’t based on status, achievement, or gender, but instead is based on a deep belief that everyone matters, everyone is welcome, and everyone is loved, no conditions, no exceptions. It’s not the kind of belonging you find at the top of the ladder among those who think they are the best, but at the bottom among all the rest, with all the other failures and losers who have either climbed the ladder and fallen, or never gotten up enough gumption to climb in the first place.

Whatever else this uprising will become, from that night we’ve known it is an uprising of fellowship, a community where anyone who wants to be part of us will be welcome. Jesus showed us his scars, and we’re starting to realize we don’t have to hide ours.

So fellowship is for scarred people, and for scared people, and for people who want to believe but aren’t sure what or how to believe. When we come together just as we are, we begin to rise again, to believe again, to hope again, to live again.

Reference:

Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation (New York: Jericho Books, 2014), 173, 174–175.

Explore Further. . .

Image Credit: Brian McLaren, Untitled 10-12 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.

The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to Brian McLaren as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. His photos are featured here in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image Inspiration: The two outside photos in this triptych can appear spare, bare, or apart. The photo in the middle brings together a collection of unique items supported by the table. What happens when we are intentional about connection, or together-ing, rather than other-ing?

Story from Our Community:

Deep political polarization in my 38-year marriage left me untethered, broken, and lonely. We were a microcosm of our country’s division. . . One evening, we threw a “Hail Mary” deciding to put our relationship above all else, and we slowly began the messy process of healing and reconciliation. During the darkest days of my life, these daily meditations have brought me the light, clarity, and courage I needed to take care of myself. They also opened my heart enough to find the humility and compassion I needed to do my part in healing our marriage. I discovered that I, too, was guilty of “othering.” I finally feel like I’m emerging from a chrysalis to a more joyful life of love and connection.
—Julie C.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

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In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.