Spreading Shalom

“Dance, dance, wherever you may be.

“I am the Lord of the Dance” says he

“And I’ll lead you on wherever you may be,

“And I’ll lead you on in the dance,” says he.

After the betrayal, the cooked-up charges, the Cross, the nails, the empty tomb, the Lord of the Dance comes to his disciples hiding behind locked doors and says, “Peace.  Peace be with you.”  Often we hear that word peace in the context of our lives—thinking when we hear it absence of conflict or inner calm.  But Jesus was saying not peace but “Shalom.”  “Shalom”—it means so much more than just absence of conflict or inner calm or even peace of mind.  Prosperity, health, peace, wellness, completeness, safety, harmony, fulfillment, unity, restoration are all a part of God’s Shalom.1  That’s what the Lord of the Dance offers his disciples.  That’s what Jesus was bestowing on those huddled behind locked doors.  Shalom.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. The Lord of the dance breaks through doors closed by fear and guilt and more than a measure of confusion, breathes his spirit on his disciples and invites them into the dance saying, “I send you to do as I have done.”  He’s sending them out to love and serve their neighbors.

It takes a while for the disciples to get it, for them to step into the dance.  Remember, they huddle in that room for quite some time.  Then Jesus comes back to them again, hails them by the shore, cooks a breakfast, shows them how to love their neighbor and sends them out to feed his lambs and tend his sheep.

When next we meet those followers of Jesus, they are being blown or shaken out of their locked-in places—whisked out into the world of deep need.  The author of the Acts of the Apostles tells us first that “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need”(Acts 2:  44-45).  As the community grew, they continued to share what they had.  Indeed, we hear today, “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.  They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:  34-35)

You and I and this part of the Body of Christ we call St. Michael’s are part of a long chain of Christian communities called to love and serve their neighbor as themselves thus spreading Shalom to the world in which we live.  Spreading shalom—it’s  so clearly part of our DNA as Christians though a part that often gets overlooked.  Our early Christian forbearers had quite a reputation for meeting deep human need:

*Tertullian, an early Christian writer and theologian observed, “Our             care for the derelict and our active love have become our distinctive sign before the enemy…      ‘See,’ they say ‘how they love one another and how ready they are to die for each  other.’”2

As Tertullian implies, it wasn’t only Christians that noticed what was going on. The Emperor Julian the Apostate in the 4th century commented caustically, “The godless Christians feed not only their poor but ours also.”3

You and I and this part of the Body of Christ we call St. Michael’s come from a long line of individuals and communities turned outward toward the needs of the world. I think of Clare and Francis and St. Martin of Tour’s all who focused on serving the least of God’s children. I think of communities like the Beguines in the Middle Ages and Catholic Worker communities of today—communities that devote their common life to serving the neediest, communities that practice a radical kind of love of neighbor.  All part of that great Apostolic train of communities and individuals intent on being the Body of Christ spreading God’s Shalom to the world of great human need.

Just this last week I saw a group of people right here in Albuquerque, including people from St. Michael’s, dancing the dance of Shalom, practicing deep love of neighbor.  In the community room of St. Martin’s coffee shop, a group of people gathered to work out how they would support a person making that difficult transition from living on the streets to living in an apartment.  They talked about who they were and why they were there, what they thought the person moving off the streets might need, what they each brought to the project.  And then one person asked, “What if all of us—all  of St. Michael’s—were a part of this home team each contributing their skills, their knowledge, their unique gifts to people in Albuquerque heading home?”  What a question!

What if we all got together, this whole community–St. Michael’s—all of us, and worked together to address a deep need in our community?  What if the marks on our part of the Body of Christ were mission, service and a radical love of neighbor?  What if the marks of our discipleship were the spreading of Shalom among the homeless, the hungry, the poor right here in Northwest Albuquerque, right here in our neck of the bosque?  Think of it—St. Michael’s as part of that great Apostolic train of compassion serving as Christ’s Body in the world.

Could it be that the Lord of the Dance is coming through the doors of this community and inviting us, like our brothers and sisters who have gone before us, into the world of deep need just beyond those doors,  inviting us into the dance of true communion with our neighbors, with one another and with Christ?

“Dance, dance, wherever you may be.

“I am the Lord of the Dance” says he

“And I’ll lead you on wherever you may be,

“And I’ll lead you on in the dance,” says he.

 1Mary Donovan Turner, Old Testament Words, 2003, 110.

2Dan Clendenin, “Communities of Compassion, Then and Now”  http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20120409JJ.shtml                       3Dan Clendenin, “They Enjoyed the Favor of All People” http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20090413JJ.shtml.

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One Response to Spreading Shalom

  1. What an inspiring and compelling invitation for your congregation and community! I love the thought of Jesus bursting through doors — dancing and inviting. Who could say “no, thank you” to that? Thanks so much!

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