When I visited Nashville a year ago I kept putting off going back to Wisconsin. First I was going to leave Sunday. Then Monday. And finally convinced myself to hit the road on Tuesday.
But after that Monday evening I was sure glad I stayed. I like to think that was God’s plan all along. Because that Monday night God planted the seed in my heart that He might have something for me in Nashville. And that something was community. It was learning how to love. How to simply be. All with the thread of justice running through it.
A friend invited me to come and hang out with what essentially was a big group of friends who got together to make food and serve it to the homeless in downtown Nashville. I remember leaving that night with a million thoughts in my head but blown away by the fact that I had shared my story…a 5 minute, honest, from the heart, version of it…to more people in those 3 hours than I had in probably 3 years. And I didn’t even know those people.
The group now has an official name – People Loving Nashville. And still meets every single Monday night…rain, shine, tornados, snow…you name it.
When I go and sit on the floor in a big circle as we gather for a devotion before heading out I am overwhelmed at what is around me. It’s a group of mostly 20 & 30 somethings, all with incredibly different stories, all from different churches…some not from any church. No one comes out of obligation. No one is getting credit for being there. They come compelled by one thing: love. And that love is the foundation of a community not just among those of us serving but the people we serve as well. It’s grown in size since I first visited but it still feels like a big group of friends getting together to cook some food and give it to those in need. A community strung together by love and a heart for justice.
After missing far too many weeks in a row I made it back downtown last night. And again I was overwhelmed. As I sat in that circle I couldn’t help but think of being there almost a year ago to the day…that first time was actually today…April 26th…and the community that I discovered that night. It was and is one of the most beautiful expressions of being the Church…of living justice…I’ve seen.
I don’t have it all neatly sorted out…perhaps I never will. And maybe that’s okay. But, I’ve discovered this past year that love, community, and justice all seem to go hand in hand. Sure, they can exist independently but their meaning and purpose is most fully seen when they mesh together in messy layers.
I found it fitting last night that the devotion last night was from 1 Corinthians 5 focusing on renewal…about leaving behind the old and living in the new because that is what Christ won for us with His death and resurrection. I have left a lot behind in the last year. A lot that too often I want to drag with me. But God has worked renewal in my life through love, community, and living justice. And it was all planted on a cool but muggy April night in Nashville.