How John Lewis ended up at our screening of Selma, a.k.a. A Go(o)d Step

 

 

I was standing by the entrance of the cinema when I recognized him — John Lewis, long-serving congressman from Georgia, civil rights champion, and personal hero.

I was at the theater because The District Church was hosting an advance screening of the new movie, Selma, together with two other churches — Restoration Arlington and The Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church. David Hanke (rector of Restoration), Kendrick Curry (pastor of PABC) and I had met in October as part of a Micah Group (designed by Fuller Seminary to help local pastors engage and grow in the intersection of worship, justice, and preaching). And as events in Ferguson, Staten Island, and more had hit the national headlines, bringing widespread attention to issues of race and justice, we’d naturally been talking about what our response was as local churches and as the Church.

IMG_8741Through a connection with Values Partnerships (thanks, Scott!), the organization started and led by Joshua Dubois (the former head of President Obama’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships), the opportunity arose to jointly host a screening of this new movie, centered around the civil rights movement and the significant events that took place in Alabama. The event was designed to bring different congregations together, to begin a conversation our role and responsibility as followers of Christ seeking the kingdom of God together.

So there we were, waiting for the event to start, checking people in, getting folks seated. And in walks John Lewis, who lived through the events portrayed in the film, together with a few other members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

My first thought was, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t go to our church! Is he coming to our screening?!

My second thought was, What are the odds? On the night you’ve scheduled a joint screening of Selma with two other churches seeking to work together toward racial reconciliation, a hero of the civil rights movement walks into the same theater?

IMG_4991It was absolutely a God thing. Josh asked if the congressman would be able to take a few moments to speak to our gathered congregations, and he graciously agreed, sharing for a few minutes about being beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, about walking with Dr. King and meeting Rosa Parks, and then speaking of the work of justice and reconciliation that continues today. He said:

We had faith. We kept our eyes on the prize. We were ready to die.

It was a challenging word, an inspiring word, a providential word.

Selma is an intense, moving, and at times overwhelming film. To know that this is part of the fabric of the history of the United States is both heart-breaking and hope-filled. Heart-breaking because of the depth of sin. Hope-filled because of the power of God working through faithful men and women.

After the movie, we set aside time to talk and to pray together, because the purpose of gathering was to begin a conversation, not just about a movie, not just about something that happened 50 years ago, but about what we’re called to as Christians, which is to see the kingdom of God come on earth, to see more of up there come down here. We want to see in the here-and-now what Dr. King called “the Beloved Community,” where “our loyalties … transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation.”

In Revelation 7, the apostle John sees “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” And they were worshiping God. That’s the future we’re moving toward.

So we broke up into small groups, got to know each other, and prayed together: three churches, from different locations in the DC metro area, with different demographics and different pastors, but “one body, one Spirit,one hope,one Lord,one faith,one baptism,one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

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David and Kendrick and I are continuing to talk about next steps, ways in which we can continue to partner together for the cause of the gospel. But last night was a good first step.

All thanks be to God.

What I’m listening to: Damien Rice

Did this as a communion song last month. I think it’s apt for the new year … for every new moment, actually:

And we can’t take back what is done, what is past
So fellas, lay down your fears
‘Cause we can’t take back what is done, what is past
So let us start from here
And if all that you are is not all you desire, then come
Come, come along
Come with fears, come with love
Come however you are

J is for Jesus

Ever since I heard U2 for the first time in high school, I’ve been a fan. I even wrote a paper about them in college (my professor marked me down because it read like a hagiography — oh well). I’ve loved and been inspired by their music; I’ve loved and been inspired by Bono’s activism. He and his bandmates have been one of the influences on my own music, as well as my theology and my faith.

Anyway, to mark the end of 2014, Bono wrote an “A to Z of 2014.” It’s a beautiful blog, touching, poignant, inspirational. My favorite is J.

J IS FOR JESUS

At this time of year some people are reminded of the poetic as well as the historic truth that is the birth of Jesus. The Christmas story has a crazy good plot with an even crazier premise – the idea goes, if there is a force of love and logic behind the universe, then how amazing would it be if that incomprehensible power chose to express itself as a child born in s— and straw poverty.

Who could conceive of such a story? If you believe it was the protagonist, as I do, then we should try to be really respectful of people who think the whole thing is a bit nutty or worse… Religious people are the best and worst of us…handle us with scepticism…

Strangely, maybe, some of the most rational thinkers see some kind of cosmic sense in all this… Francis Collins, who led the human genome project, is an obvious one… the language of science and faith are not necessarily at odds….

… the Christmas story … still brings me to my knees – which is a good place for me lest I harm myself or others. Christmas is not a time for me to overthink about this child, so vulnerable, who would grow so strong… to teach us all how vulnerability is the route to strength and, by example, show us how to love and serve.

To me this is not a fairy tale but a challenge. I preach what I need to hear…

2014: Highlights

What a year it’s been. As with every year, I’ve seen many highs and many lows in my life, in the lives of those around me, and in the world: births and deaths, marriages and breakups, celebration and mourning, peace and war. And I’m grateful that I can say God has been faithful throughout it all.

Psalm 116:12-14:

What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,

I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

I pray that wherever life finds you on this last day of 2014, you know the hope and peace and joy and love of Christ.

January: Our church’s Leadership Community Retreat, a time of refreshment and preparation for the coming year (planning a wedding and getting married among a number of transitions to come!).

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February: Super Bowl champs. #gohawks

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March: Our community comes together to pray for Relisha Rudd, an 8-year-old who went missing from DC General Homeless Shelter. Many in our church volunteer at the shelter and were personally affected. Relisha remains missing, even though the man who kidnapped her was found dead. The pic below is from a vigil that was held for Relisha.

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April: Easter at The District Church! We’d been feeling led to ask Matthew Watson to take over leadership of the East Side parish, and here he had his first opportunity to preach an Easter sermon.

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May: Moved into what would be our first apartment as a married couple. Painted, with the help of great friends.

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June: We celebrated the East Side parish’s first birthday with a baptism service and a party afterwards! Later in the month, I got to hang out in the mountains with some of my guys.

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July: Well, wedding = Fung family reunion + BFF in town.

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August: Accepted. Back to school we go!

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September: Introducing Carolyn to Seattle.

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October: I finally get to meet Zoe (Tim & Tiff’s daughter) in person!

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November: I discover the truth of this.

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December: Celebrating the end of the year with a phenomenal team, Raleigh for Christmas, and I get to say, “Happy birthday to my wife!” for the first time.from the staff of The District ChurchIMG_8649 IMG_8707