Hope in the Winter in the City
by Brian Seim
22 December 2009
I've spent several months in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, to better understand his directions for us as disciples. I kept asking, "Why did Jesus characterize his Kingdom using three images; salt, light and a city on a hill?" A single Christian can be salty, a group can produce a community of light, but it takes a complex, inter-related system to be a city on a hill.
Jesus intentionally reduced his followers to a single set and he is seen through all of us. For those of us living in cities, we need to understand that "they" see "us" together. It’ll take reconciliation, thoroughly biblical reflection, and mutual, equitable service for "his city" to shine. His urban church is complex and inter-related, a city, set on a hill, full of lights and seasoned with salt.
But then, what does a city set on a hill look like in the winter? Do we think to gently smile at those without hope, pray with the lonely, give a listening ear to those who aren’t heard, an overcoat for the cold, a message of good news for those who’ve just received bad … ? Perhaps it is reconciliation with a brother or sister within our church or, as in the following story an initiative of touching "the other."
I recently visited a church in one of the most dangerous at-risk communities in Canada. Pastor Alvin was speaking to his congregation from I Samuel 22, reflecting on David fleeing from Saul as a fugitive to the Cave at Adullam and many, deemed less than valuable to Saul, joined him. They were in distress, in debt, and in trouble. They were armed and dangerous. But most of all they were marginalized from their own people. They wanted to be re-united with Israel in Hebron. Instead, they lived in a cave.
Pastor Alvin compared his people, marginalized by colour and class, desiring to be part of God’s people, to David and his followers. H1N1 flu affects immigrants powerfully and we’d already prayed for many of the congregation missing because of health. He spoke wisely of how to deal with debt, gently to those "in trouble." He verbally cuffed around the ears those who were armed and dangerous (some shifted in their seats, uncomfortably). But more than that, he invited each one to hope—that one day they would be at Hebron, that the rest of the church would again value them, that their part of Kingdom life would be acknowledged, and their ministries recognized.
Jesus was born in not much more than that cave. His poverty throughout life and death has made us rich—rich in joy and peace and salvation. May each of us remember that he set aside his majesty for poverty. May we be a backdrop for his incarnational presence toward others during this Christmas season. May it bring his hope.
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Champion: Brian Seim
Brian Seim has been working in urban ministry among Canadian churches since 1998. He will assist SIM worldwide by publishing information on effective urban initiatives, defining patterns of people migration, and advocating for new urban missionaries and ministries.
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