Awe and Wonder

A Meditation for Beloved Community

7 May 2017

Acts 2: 42-44

 

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

 

I love everybody in my heart

“I love everybody,

I love everybody,

I love everybody,

In my heart.”

 

That’s the song that civil rights leaders sang in Selma as they crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge over the Alabama River on the beginning of their long journey to Montgomery on March 7, 1965. That’s the song that mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, college students, pastors, workers, and business owners sang as they crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge and were shot with teargas and beaten with billy clubs by employees of the state of Alabama.

 

“I love everybody,

I love everybody,

I love everybody,

In my heart.”

 

And Ruby Sales, who was there that day with John Lewis and 600 other marchers all of whom have names and relationships and stories said she used to wonder why they couldn’t just get down to the business of the meeting, why they always had to start with these obligatory prayers and songs… and looking back on the history we realize that these prayers and songs were a training ground for the movement of love, and nonviolence, and restorative justice in the streets of southern apartheid.

“I love everybody,

I love everybody,

I love everybody,

In my heart.”

 

I’ve had that song playing through my mind this time around as I’ve listened to this story from Acts. I’ve had Ruby Sales’ account of those events playing through my mind too. It sounds like the early Christian community had a similar grounding. Maybe that’s what the author of Acts is trying to tell us when they write, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

 

They showed up for the movement, they showed up for peace, and love, and justice, and community… and before they could get going with all that good stuff… before they could “get down to the business of the meeting” they started with these obligatory prayers and songs, and the praying of those prayers and the singing of those songs, and the breaking of that bread shaped and formed their world in such a profound way that they found themselves singing those songs of peace, and justice, and freedom, and community in the spirit of Christ right out in the streets.

 

And they found themselves to be amazed by that.

 

“Awe came upon everyone,” the text says, “because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.”

 

They found themselves to be amazed by all that was going on among them. They found themselves in awe and wonder of the world that they were inhaling and exhaling together, and you know, as many times as I’ve read this text, I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so struck by the line, “Awe came upon everyone,” as I have this time around.

 

I’ve read this text a thousand times, and I’ve upheld this text as a portrait of authentic, organic, spirit led community… and a biblical call to a deeper economy than capitalism (which it is) but as I’ve read it this time around, I’ve been struck by the sense of awe that seems to descend upon this community… I’ve been awe-struck.

 

I’ve just been amazed thinking about awe coming upon everyone. How does that happen? Does it just descend like a dove? Does it come like a fog? Does it fall like manna in the wilderness? Does it just sort of well up within you if you keep praying those obligatory prayers and singing those obligatory songs? Does it just sort of crescendo as more and more marchers join in to the Spirit Movement sweeping through the streets?

 

And the thing I’ve been thinking about awe, is just how powerful awe is. In the topsy-turvy streets of the Spirit Movement, where the low will be brought high, the poor will be made rich, the last will be first… awe strikes you… it stops you in your tracks… it fills your heart with love and compassion.

 

Awe is more powerful than tear gas and billy clubs… it’s more powerful than executive orders and border walls… it’s more powerful than camping bans and discrimination laws… Awe moves us from our head, where we “wonder why we can’t just get down to the business of the meeting”… to our heart, where we “love everybody.”

 

And when we come to inhabit the world from our heart, when our lives unfold from our deepest, truest, most centered self… from our self upheld in the very being of God… crazy things will happen… surprising things will happen… and not just with our minds, and our words, and our actions, and in the streets, and in our homes, and around our tables… but with our money

and not just with the 1%, or 2%, or 5%, or 10% of our monthly earnings that we give away… but with all of it.

 

“They” have names

So that’s the story here… that’s the quick, sweeping story from these four verses in the book of Acts, “They prayed prayers, sang songs, and broke bread together week after week… They found themselves in awe to be in the midst of the Spirit Movement singing those songs out in the streets… and they shared all things with one another in community.”

 

But if we rush over that story, we might forget that “they” have names, and the “wonders and signs” that they have them awe struck, are the stories of the work of God in their community.

 

“They” are Sarah, Peter, Eva, Dave, Gayla, Vern, Marilyn, Cathryn, Douglas, Dwight, Kim, Pat, Joe, Taylor, Taylor, Conner, Kaylanne, Craig, Anne, Katie, John, John, Connie, Carol, Carol, Nan, Rob, Cary, Luke, Emma, Ed, Kathryn, Steve, Monta Lee, and more!

 

And “they” are praying prayers, singing songs, and breaking bread together week after week… and “they” are finding themselves singing those songs out in the streets…

 

Out in the streets of the women’s march with pink hats flexing the topsy turvy muscles of the Spirit Movement…

 

“They” are singing those songs… In capitol hearing rooms reading 2500 year old words calling for the release of the captives and the liberation of the oppressed, and telling stories of the incarnation of a vulnerable God who had no place to lay his head…

 

“They” are singing those songs… In class rooms teaching art to students who ate free breakfast and lunch at school that day and may not get a full meal at home at dinner time…

 

“They” are singing those songs… In ICE meetings with men living so vulnerably that after years of struggle as economic refugees could have their work and income ripped away from them at a moment’s notice…

 

“They” are singing those songs… while quilting with people of all different backgrounds… sewing a whole new world together.

 

“They” are singing those songs… while taking the sacred action of beating the drum of healthcare for all, because a society is only as healthy as it’s least healthy members.

 

“They” are singing those songs… while standing outside a courtroom with Quakers, and Catholics, and Methodists ready to surround Ingrid as she leaves the courtroom should ICE officers emerge.

 

“They” are singing those songs… in Ecuador waiting on visas and funding to return to Colorado and re-join this community

 

“They” are singing those songs… while building the beloved community village and making a way where there seems to be no way. Making homes where there were no homes. Rewriting city policies that oppress and marginalize the poor and reimagining what’s possible within the scope of human relationship.

 

“They” are singing those songs… On farms turning soil, squaring beds, and dreaming of the plants and bounty to come.

 

“They” are singing those songs…

 

“They” are singing together…

“I love everybody,

I love everybody,

I love everybody,

In my heart.”

 

And this is only the beginning for them… who knows what will be next? Who knows where the Spirit Movement will find “them” singing those songs next?

 

Awe and Wonder

Are you in awe? Are you awe-struck?

 

Awe is powerful… it moves us from our head where we “wonder why we can’t just get down to the business of the meeting”… to our heart, “where we love everybody.”

 

And in our story from Acts, that move was the seed of a radically new economy… “They” prayed prayers, sang songs, and broke bread together week after week… “They” found themselves in awe to be in the midst of the Spirit Movement singing those songs out in the streets… And “they” shared all things with one another in community.

 

Maybe a biblical communism is not our call… maybe it is… maybe we won’t share all things… but maybe we would “share” all things. Maybe we wouldn’t share all of our money, but maybe we would be able to “share” about our money with one another, and with people that are different from us and live with a radically different orientation to it than we can imagine.

 

Maybe we would consider what it is that we’re already doing together… how we’ve already begun to participate in the work of the Spirit Movement… and how we might continue to participate in that work… and perhaps deepen our participation in that work… and how sharing our money or sharing about our might or might not be involved in that.

 

And so, you can see that this isn’t the final word. As Ruby Sales says of black folk religion, “[In the bush harbors on plantations] black people began to talk about God in this society where they were enslaved, and everybody participated. Everyone had a voice in the conversation, so it was not as if the preacher’s voice was the most primary and essential voice. It was participatory.”

 

So, the Spirit Movement that we have joined in… the movement that is as old as Israel’s liberation march through the red sea from slavery in Egypt… and black America’s liberation march across the Alabama River from hateful voting discrimination laws… is participatory. I am simply in awe that we are involved… And that awe causes me to turn to wonder.

 

I wonder about the economic implications of my own involvement and our collective involvement in the Spirit Movement? I wonder how we might be involved in seeding an economy that doesn’t rely upon the logic of growth at the expense of the misery of others? I wonder how we might embrace the biblical logic that there is always more than enough to go around? I wonder about all of those things and more…

 

And I also wonder how we might choose to pay our bills and balance our budget together. Would you wonder about those things with me?

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