A Messy Harvest

Lisa (not her real name) is “missing”…AGAIN! Lisa has committed to follow Jesus. Lisa loves Jesus. Lisa also loves spice and is struggling with a lifelong addiction issue. Lisa was doing so well – Celebrate Recovery on Tuesday nights and worship on Saturday nights. New people, places and things (we thought). Clean and sober! Everything looked great! And then, a “fall”! 40 days in the “wilderness” a.k.a. our local jail. We had Starbucks last week when she was released and she was “back on track”. I am so proud of her! A job. A place to live. Back in the family fold. Then, without warning, Lisa is M.I.A., and my heart is broken. Our spiritual family is grieving. Her Mom’s heart is destroyed...again!

We are in the midst of a harvest; but, it is certainly a “messy” harvest.

A messy harvest of the marginalized, the homeless and the lifelong poor. A messy harvest of the ostracized, the harried and the working poor. And possibly the messiest of them all – stable and “religious” American church-goers who are clueless about their own messes (but who have a “gift” for noticing other people’s messes).

Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude to God for this messy harvest – we are thrilled to see lives being changed right in front of our eyes. The poor are hearing and responding to the Good News about Jesus. The lonely and broken are being welcomed into our spiritual family tasting the sweetness of authentic community. The addicted and strung out are finding sobriety and freedom – truly experiencing hope. Hope is empowering people to receive a “hand-up” rather than just a “hand-out”. We can see the power of Jesus at work – what a privilege to drink from this cup of joy!

But, then, there is ALSO the cup of suffering!

I’m not sure I want to drink from this cup (and keep on drinking) – so full of pain. New followers of Jesus have messy spiritual “diapers” to go along with their messy lives. Hours of spiritual love and coaching needed. Telling the truth with love over and over again can be totally draining and agonizing. Hurt people hurt other people. Doing life together as a spiritual family can be challenging, and sometimes funny to the point of tears, when we mix all of our pathologies from our families of origin all together in the same pot. Recovering Jesus-followers relapse – they get lost, they go to jail and they break many hearts. Even people who meet and love Jesus often have “more month left than money” on a pretty regular basis. IT'S MESSY! The cup of suffering for spiritual moms and dads who deeply care. And then there are the cries from the folks who don’t realize their own messes. Where are the "normal” people like us? When will they start coming to our church again? How can we pay the bills with all these messy people flooding in? (Ouch!)

Am I overflowing with “GRACE and truth” like Jesus? Sometimes, on a good day – ha ha! Other days, NOT so much!

The cup of joy and the cup of suffering…I am deeply drinking from both…

Do we really have a choice? Are we willing to lay down our lives to see the messy harvest welcomed in? I say YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!

If so, how will we survive this God-given ministry passion? Here are three thoughts from the trenches (from someone who is still learning to walk them out):

First, am I being nourished and renewed for “survival” for the marathon of messy ministry, rather than burning out in a frenetic sprint? My heart is to finish well. My heart is that we ALL finish well. Am I willing to embrace the “Mary calling” to sit at Jesus’ feet and be filled with his “zoe” life, rather than frantically and ceaselessly obsessing over all the “details” of the “Martha ministry malady”? Am I willing to ask this hard question (stolen years ago from Bill Hybels):

“Is the way I am doing the work of God destroying God’s work within me?”

Back to Lisa for a moment…

Am I willing to love and serve Lisa and others like her with an “open hand” entrusting her to HER Papa, rather than a “clenched fist” of MY “responsibility to fix her”? Or, as a rough-hewn old AA guy forcefully reminded me last night in the depth of my suffering and co-dependency: “Lisa ain’t yours! She belongs to her Abba!” Yes, I am opening my hand…again!

Second, a messy harvest demands more harvesters! So, I pray and we pray (Luke 10:2)! A messy harvest can only be harvested by a spiritual family. Our Papa calls and equips spiritual moms and dads to mother and father spiritual daughters and sons. This is the New Testament plan – we are spiritual FAMILY!

We will be equipping our spiritual family through a “boot camp” experience this Fall as we digest and practice the Culture of the Few! We will run two groups, one on each side of Tampa Bay, to empower our leaders to lead as Jesus led, and preparing them for the messy harvest that follows when we actually live as Jesus lived.

Never forget, the real harvest (as seen in major revivals, renewals and “viral” Jesus movements) always explodes from the messy matrix of the poor, the marginalized and the unlikely…

Third, our spiritual family at Cornerstone has seen the need for “tribal belonging” – sharing the journey with like-hearted brothers and sisters who are passionate long-term for the messy harvest. Let's encourage each other on this journey. It's always worth it.

Five reflections on Luke 10.25-37 [NLT]…

1. Papa is still calling “despised Samaritans” [e.g. the young, women, the “novices”, etc] to Kingdom ministry. Will we say YES?

2. Do we have personal resources (“oil and wine”) to share when we encounter abject need and “kairos-moment” opportunities, or are we always “running on empty” spiritually? What needs to change so Jesus’ passion and compassion can flow through us to others?

3. Why do you think Jesus took the man to an “inn” and not a “church”? Do we lead a Good Samaritan INN or a “pass by on the other side” religious institution?

4. Do we trust that “Jesus died and so there is always enough” (Heidi Baker)? Are we sure that Jesus is always “good for the bill” that is leftover for the care and feeding of the messy?

5. What needs to happen TODAY for us to “now GO and DO likewise”?

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