First published in May of 2019, this post recounts a message I heard the last time I visited my daughter’s church in Boston. Though I haven’t been able to visit in almost two years, I know that throughout the pandemic, they have been elbow-deep, putting their scarred hands to good use, in caring for their community and re-member-ing the body of Christ. What a beautiful work of reconciliation — seeking to serve and draw together those who have been torn apart by the world by offering them the love of Christ. May we go and do likewise.
I was sitting in a church in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts with a community I’ve visited several times before — a group of broken people who gather each week to hear the message that they are beloved of God — every one of them.
They come in dresses and jeans, sweatpants and suits, walking unassisted or rolling in wheelchairs, a mismatched gathering of ages, races, and socio-economic backgrounds.
Their journeys are varied, but all have found their way to a humble basement where the love is palpable. Smiles and hugs are offered to all who enter — whether they arrive early, on time, or halfway through the service. Strangers and friends slide over to make room.
Songs are sung in English and Spanish simultaneously. Prayers are written in traditional and modern forms, side by side. I am invited to “pray and sing using language that is meaningful” for me. The voices join in a beautiful cacophony.
A children’s message is delivered to the two children present, and since they are timid to come forward, two grown men make the first move, and sit at the feet of the woman giving the message, and everyone participates. “Does anyone know how to say ‘I love you’ in a different language,” she asks. And the adults in the room respond in Spanish, French, German, Basque, and sign language.
The pastor’s message reminds those present that the community as a whole experienced trauma not too many years ago when its main sanctuary was destroyed by fire. And, in this season of Easter, she tells the story of the traumatized disciples who had witnessed the death of their friend, their mentor, their leader. She reminds us that though we, like the disciples, have been traumatized, we have been loved.
Each broken person in the basement of the yet un-repaired building has been loved — held, watched, and supported through the healing.
She recalls Peter and the disciples shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, who, seeing that their lives of walking with Jesus in the flesh were over, resorted to muscle memory — throwing out nets and pulling in nothing.
After a long night of futility they return to the shore to find Jesus waiting on the beach. He tells these professional fishermen to throw their nets out on the other side of the boat — not the side that they’d been trained to throw out on, not the one they knew to be most fruitful, but a different side.
He was telling them, the pastor said, to try a different way. Don’t go back to what you were doing before; you’ve been changed. Do things a different way.
Don’t go back to what was; move forward into what is.
And the broken in the basement room — me among them — leaned in. Our scars are still visible. We are rebuilding strength, but the images of trauma remain. We long to be whole, to have our weak and jangling limbs strengthened. We long to walk, to even run.
The pastor cast her vision of restoration, of finishing the repairs of the sanctuary, of creating a space of healing for the community, of opening doors where others who are mismatched and broken can find love. She painted a picture of not going back to what was, but moving forward into what is.
And the broken in the room could see the image of doors flung open, of throngs flowing in, of scarred hands put to good use.
When the disciples tried the different way — throwing their nets on the unfamiliar side — they pulled in so many fish that the nets could barely hold them. They dragged their haul to where Jesus was waiting with a fire, ready to cook them breakfast after their long night. And while they were there, Jesus asked Peter, “do you love me?” Peter was offended — “you know that I love you!” And Jesus answered, and I’m paraphrasing here, “then don’t go back to your old life, man, you’ve been transformed. Spread the love that has been lavished upon you. Feed my sheep.”
The pastor held a loaf of bread in her hands and broke it in two saying, “Jesus said, this is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me. Re-member me.”
In eating the bread and drinking the wine, we are not simply remembering that Jesus took bread, broke it, and gave it to His disciples. We are not only nostalgic for the time that he walked on the earth. We are not just focusing on His work on the Cross. We are also joining in His work of putting His body back together, of restoring, of healing, of re-membering.
That’s the work of Jesus. He re-members the broken who He calls to re-member his broken body — to pull it back together — to open the doors to the broken, to offer them something to eat, and to invite them to join in the work of re-membering the broken.
It’s pretty simple, actually.
If you have been broken, and haven’t we all, remember that you have also been loved — even in that brokenness. You have been carried, and seen, and possibly even restored.
If you have, or if you are on the journey, lift your gaze. Don’t go back to what you were doing before, but look around. You are likely walking beside the wounded — those who are limping and gasping and longing to be seen and restored. They yearn to be re-membered. Open your arms to them, welcome them in. Feed His sheep.
We won’t all do this work in a building in Jamaica Plain — although I can imagine a thriving ministry growing out of those ashes. Some of us will use our broken bodies in our work places, in our cities, in our churches, and among our friends. The broken are all around us. Let’s do our best to feed His sheep and re-member His body.
You are a SaviorAll Sons and Daughters, “Brokenness Aside”
And You take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful”
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