“Where ideas have sex.” It’s one of the myriad of edgy stickers on the window, but it grabs my attention as we step through the door. Just inches into this world, I’m breathing different air and wondering what Jesus is saying to me here.
Jay and I are visiting a co-working space in the heart of Belgrade where Darko is showing us around. Longish hair, smiling, perfect English with a slight Serbian accent — there’s welcome in him and in the environment. But, there’s something intimidating here too. He leans in, “Come by on a Friday afternoon — the Hub’s community gets together for drinks and socializing.” Myheart skips a beat, then doubles its rhythms. We’ve just been invited to church. Sort of.
Darko isn’t preaching Jesus, but he is preaching community. By the time our tour ends, we’ve laughed together, he’s listened to our story, told us about the community’s shared moral code, and invited us to the Hub’s happy hour many times. It is the apex of their week — Sunday morning fellowship on a Friday afternoon. with alcohol. to unwind. without Jesus.
I’m going take a risk and say that this is where the church needs to consistently be present — right here at Friday afternoon happy hour, soberly leaning in while Darko drinks his beer and the community gathers together. And that frightens me.
I’m going take a risk and say that this is where the church needs to consistently be present — right here at Friday afternoon happy hour, soberly leaning in while Darko drinks his beer and the community gathers together.
It pulls me out of my comfort zone. It places me in locations where the beverages, the body language, and the conversations are all foreign to me. It blurs the secular and the sacred spaces and I don’t know how to find Jesus in Darko’s happy hour. I don’t know how to be Jesus here either. I like Sunday Jesus.
Sunday Jesus is familiar. I know how he looks, how he smells, how he speaks, and what behavior he expects. Sunday Jesus is my comfort zone but if I read my Bible well, I find that the Jesus of AD 30 is leaning into Darko’s happy hour. Jesus had the audacity to blur the secular with his sacred presence and then, having ascended into heaven, left his body here on earth to do the same. “Christ has no body now on earth but yours,” said St. Teresa of Avila.
Sunday Jesus is my comfort zone but if I read my Bible well, I find that the Jesus of AD 30 is leaning into Darko’s happy hour. Jesus had the audacity to blur the secular with his sacred presence and then, having ascended into heaven, left his body here on earth to do the same.
Is that good news?
As evangelical communities, we have become the experts and connoisseurs of what could be called ‘the incarnational-attractional church’. We plant ourselves in a community, prayer walk it, study it, strategize, and then set to work creating safe, inviting spaces with engaging programs meant to draw the unchurched world into our safety zone. We want to be your home, your grace space, your community, your hub, your family but, we want to do it on our terms.
Some of us want to keep the doors of our churches firmly shut preserving what is sacred from the secular. Others of us are willing to host bigger tables that are set inside our inviting spaces where all or most are welcome. A few of us will venture into neutral third-spaces, darting into a coffee shop for a croissant and a conversation. We entertain debates over belonging then believing or believing then belonging. We have even connected hospitality to theology, and rightly so.
But, is there more that was modeled by Jesus for us?
Eating with tax collectors and prostitutes constituted a radical statement of inclusion by the Messiah. To eat with someone, especially at their table, was to visibly identify with them, and here we have the holy One of heaven, leaning in to catch the phrases of a prostituted woman.
To eat with someone, especially at their table, was to visibly identify with them, and here we have the holy One of heaven, leaning in to catch the phrases of a prostituted woman.
Eating at someone’s table was also a relinquishment of control. In the same way that the Son relinquished his power as God to fit into human form and substance, so too, Jesus rejects political power and position to identify with the outcasts of his society at their tables.
If St. Theresa of Avila is right, those trembling disciples in that upper room on Saturday present us with an uncomfortable question: Is the body of Christ on earth willing to be the good news? And, what does that look like here and now?
In the next 5 posts, explore with me new paradigms of leaning in with Happy Hour Jesus.
The choice to move one’s location, or habits, or ordinary presence into locations with others that are not like you. This is a commitment of presence to make intentional, authentic, respect-filled efforts to create or to become part of a community.
Learning to receive hospitality from those in the margins turns our compassion paradigm upside down. From our places of perceived wealth and prosperity, those we would consider beneath us, the foreigner, the impoverished, the uneducated, the unbathed, have something to offer that we desperately need.
The strip club next door is your church. It is not only the people that darken your sanctuary doors on a Sunday morning. Your church is the blend of people, establishments, and the broken systems that reside in your geographical community — it’s your parish. Even when that community does not identify as believers or show an interest in the church, God calls us to be a sanctuary and to be present.
Throughout scripture, we find Jesus getting invited to the party because Jesus at the party made the party better. When was the last time your unchurched friend invited you to coffee, or to dinner, or to her party? Do you have unchurched friends?
Out of Control
What does it look like for the church to fit into, to work alongside, to resource, to facilitate, and to participate with the dreams that people in a community have for their own neighborhood? And what does it look like to do that while abstaining from manipulative evangelism?
A note to my readers … if you are unchurched, anti-church, post-church, or disillusioned by church, you are welcome to read along and to comment. You are so very welcome here! But, the real audience for the next 5 posts is that faithful Sunday morning flock. You know who you are. (Follow me to receive updates when the posts are published and … follow this link to the same article on Medium and clap … it’s an encouragement & claps on Medium translate into pay!)