By Inhabit Guide Kurt Ingram
“Over the past seven years, God has cultivated in me, and in our church, a vision that called us into this neighborhood.
Our culture has a tendency towards living like tourist, driving in and out of places, getting what we need, avoiding deep connection with any place or people.
But our church began with this conviction that our neighborhood mattered. And not just as a mission field for us to drop in and do stuff for. But this neighborhood mattered, each person mattered, and we needed to be a faithful presence, word made flesh, weaved into the fabric of this community, cultivating our common humanity.
The way this call to make our home here was articulated is with the words In, For, and With.
These three words have looked different ways over the years. It’s meant service projects, and events. It’s meant partnering and collaborating and serving. It’s also meant being a faithful presence, here to worship God, in full awareness God is in this place. And at times it’s meant sitting uncomfortably unsure what to do except stay in this space.
It means that as a church, Roosevelt is our neighborhood. The place we are In, For, and With together. But it also means that we are each working out our identities as followers of Jesus in terms of being In, For, and With our own neighborhoods with our neighbors.
The actual people who live on our block, who work with us, who go to school with us, who we see at the market and walking down our streets.
When Jesus came, he came to a small village. He spent a lot of time in his own neighborhood. He didn’t travel the world the way many others did later on. He was connected to the land, to the place, to a small group of people.
This is actually how John starts his Gospel, in awe that the holy transcendent God became a human, one of us, a neighbor, part of a small village community.
In the message it says “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
And he invites us to follow. To become word made flesh for our world, for our neighborhood, for our neighbors, to move in and make a home.
Like him, we are meant to know people, to eat together.
To be awake, to be aware, to recognize the beautiful humanity in each person.
Jesus did not live like a tourist, he made his home with people.
We are called to be home makers, to be radically neighborly. To be rooted, to live for our neighbors, to work for the common good.
We are called to be rooted so that we can produce fruit. The fruit of love, joy, peace, healing, hope,reconciliation, belonging, relationship. Fruit for our neighbors and neighborhood to enjoy.
Every person you get the opportunity to say hi to, to work with, to buy from, is an opportunity for you to follow Jesus in the way of love, to bear fruit. And to bear witness to a God who became one of us, and showed us the light.
Presence matters, we need to live fully awake to the place we are in, the people who are here, and the story God has given us to live.
And that story, as we follow Jesus, moves us not just to be present, but to be present in a way that cares for the other, and works for the common good. It’s all to easy to be self protective, to work for what works best for me and my family.
And it’s complicated to think of others, it’s messy to be bent in compassion towards the common good, because we are all so beautifully dysfunctional.
Jesus was certainly for people, for others, for us. And specifically he was moved by compassion for the marginalized, the under resourced, the people often excluded from community.
He didn’t come to just sit and teach. He didn’t come to be served. He didn’t come to help the rich, well adjusted, righteous, or powerful just have better lives.
He was a steward of the love and power of God. Which was in him, and we are called to follow him in that same way.
If we are being faithful, then we should be able to say that we are here in this place living our stories as sons and daughters of God in order to bring Good News to the Poor, To proclaim freedom to prisoners, so the blind will see, the oppressed will be set free. Because we believe the time of the Lord’s Favor has come for our neighborhood.
We can’t serve or love or witness to people we don’t know. And the only way you really get to know people is by being with them.
You can’t read about them or hear about them. You can’t see them from your car, or waive through a window.
To know someone is to be with them, to eat with them, to play with them, to cry with them, to struggle with them, to work with them. To be there in silence with them.
Jesus did this very well. His healing presence was powerful. So powerful that the people he hung out with had a great expectancy that his very presence was always on the edge of something miraculous.
We want that, to be rooted in Christ, to produce good fruit together, and to be a present witness to the powerful love of Jesus. Our dream is to be here as a community of believers and doubters struggling together trying to be faithful for hundreds of years. To become so connected to this place that we are one of the tall trees that grows up in the forest of Roosevelt.”