The Rev. Jane Gerdsen, Missioner for Fresh Expressions
I am expecting our second child in just a few weeks. As any mother will tell you, part of being pregnant is the middle of the night wake up calls. Yes, you have to use the bathroom a whole lot more often, but more than anything it is this child kicking me in the ribs that is causing me to lay awake. So as I lay in bed, I have been contemplating the nature of new life. As I feel this child making room for herself in my body, I am deeply aware of her presence.
It’s a physical discomfort one that won’t end with her arrival…one that insists that I pay attention, because our lives will change. And not just temporarily during her infancy, that period of sleepless nights and constant feedings but a change that will insist that our hearts will be broken open. We will make sacrifices. We will be changed by her presence, by the expansion of love and new energy that every child – and in fact every new person, or idea or movement demands of us.
The world will never be the same because this individual has entered it, because we knew her and loved her enough to make room for her and all the difference and change of perspective that she will bring with her.
As I think about this new life making room for herself inside of me, I have been wondering if this kind of shift is something we experience not just in our personal lives, but in our communal lives as well? Could this shift happen to our church? What if the at the heart of being Christian is a fundamental belief that new life forces us to see things differently? To change? To make room for the child, the people who make us uncomfortable? Who force their presence on our bodies, who force us to make room for them?
I think this new life is the way of God. To follow the Way means that we notice when God pokes us in the ribs, when God wakes us up in the middle of the night, and then won’t leave us alone. When our stomach is twisted into knots when we are scared to change and more scared not to. I think this happens when a child is growing inside of us but it also happens when we are called to a new job, or have an idea that we think everyone else will think is crazy or when we meet someone new.
If we listen for God’s voice, we find new life. It appears before us and it won’t leave us alone until we find everything turned upside down. I know this feeling – the middle of the night conversations with God called me to enter more deeply into relationship with people on the margins of our established churches. I have come to discover that fresh expressions of church are that movement of new life stirring around us and within us. They are the new child of God being birthed in our midst, part of the big family of God but as unique and wonderful and at times challenging as every new child can be. Each is an expression of the context and relationships that birthed it. Like having a child, when God brings something new into this world, there is no guide book that will tell you everything you need to know. You have to figure it out as you go, you have to learn from the people around you, and you have to make mistakes.
Most of all you have to be willing to be transformed, to have your body stretched and live through some discomfort. I believe that we are living in such a time. A time when God is calling us to be transformed, to be a new people, a new kind of church. I challenge you to pay attention to the ways that God might be calling you – to listen to the middle of the night invitations and the pokes in the ribs. I pray that we may all be transformed by the new life being birthed in our midst.