There is a tension I am living with these days. This tension is not something to be resolved or managed.
This is a tension to be lived. Maybe you are familiar with this tension, too.
I spent the last week tabulating more numbers than I am sure is pastorally responsible. Between annual reports, monthly grant reports, and budget reports, numbers surround me. Many churches count numbers of people attending worship services. We count that number, too, among others. We are, after all, starting a new church.
There is another number I watch even more closely.
As the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood continues to change, we continue to serve meals every Sunday morning and evening. I watch the number of meals and people served on Sundays. It is not a number anyone asks me to report. Sometimes, I wish someone did ask me how many meals were served. Embedded in the meal numbers is a tension.
The tension is seen all around the neighborhood. We are living in the and. We stand in the middle of the longtime residents, those whocall the streets of OTR home, and those who have moved into new housing developments recently. I see the wealth around me in the neighborhood and the need around me in the neighborhood. Here is the thing: it is the same neighborhood.
Some days I feel like I live in an alternate reality. The cruel reality of poverty may stare me in the face at 11:00 am and I am surrounded by great wealth at noon. I teeter between the two extremes, not always sure when the balance might shift. It would be easy to lose my center of gravity or to try and resolve the tension. Neither happens.
I get knocked off balance from time to time, but, I do not wander long. We are living in the and. Living in the and means finding my center in only one place: Jesus.
Living in the and, as far as I can tell, also reflects the best of our Wesleyan heritage that holds together personal piety and social holiness. As we seek to be a place of depth, we find scripture, prayer and worship giving us roots. As we seek to live out our faith in service and care for others, we feed our neighbors who are hungry.
And is a messy place. When stop lights, one way signs, road closed signs, and merging marque signs send different messages, I know all too well what is unfolding before me is the context for living in the and.
It sounds nice to say that scripture grounds us. Scripture does give us our foundation. It even sounds helpful to say we serve meals every Sunday. We do serve meals. Both of those things are true. Attempting to resolve the tension would eliminate the and.
From that tension I recognize the numbers I have been adding up fail to capture something important happening in our community. Living in the and is messy and beautiful and honest and heart breaking and life-changing all at the same time.
John Wesley modeled a way to live in the tension of and. Jesus lives in the and. I seek every day to live in the and so I might reflect more of Jesus in the neighborhood.