Monday Reflection - May 8, 2017

By Darren McClellan

published 5/8/2017
Dear Friends,
Answer me when I call, O God of my right!  You gave me room when I was in distress.  Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.  –Psalm 4:1
In thinking of the ways in which the Kingdom is at hand and yet still coming, I am captured by the image of God as the One who simply ‘gives us room.’  Some translations of Ps. 4:1 say “set me at large,” another “freed me when I was hemmed in” or “gave me relief from my troubles.”  Still another interesting idea, “in pressure thou hast enlarged me.”  That sounds like the result of stress eating to me.  More preferably, as St. Augustine commented, Thou hast led me from the straits of sadness into the broad ways of joy. 
Once I set the images of Broadway in NYC aside, I do wonder about the need for ‘room’ in our lives and the good news of God’s response.  In the midst of a grinding chaos, we know there is a deep yearning for some sense of alternative sanctuary.  There are those who need physical space for worship and for others, a place to sleep.  Some of us need room in our calendars for Sabbath or a fast from technology and social media.  Others need a break from unhealthy relationships or unfixable situations.  I can confess to all of the above.  Something’s got to give! 
The Apostle Paul said that if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Rom. 8:25).  But where are we supposed to wait without a room to wait in?  Where and how?  Such is the cry of the psalmist.
In any number of circumstances, a lack of room is cause for genuine distress (as Joseph and Mary would surely attest).  And yet, as in the witness of scripture, God’s act of ‘giving room’ involves clearing a path when the light at the end of the tunnel is yet unseen.  If the gift of room is understood as a gift of grace, then the question of our entitlement will be irrelevant to the God who hears our prayers.
Elsewhere, the psalmist declares, “He brought me out into a broad place; he delivered me, because he delighted me” (Ps. 18:19).  Once convinced of the particularity of God’s generous delight—the astounding notion that God loves even you—then the only remaining question is whether or not we are humble enough to receive that which we could not provide for ourselves. 
So where do you need ‘room’ today?  Secondly, how might God use you to provide ‘room’ for others?  How do you give and receive grace?
On a personal note, my beloved mother, Dale, moved into our home last week.  This transition has not been sudden or unexpected, but nevertheless brings a new way of life together as a family.  About a year ago I offered her a choice: keep her home just as it has been in isolation or compromise her material goods and independent interests for the sake of community.  She chose the latter option, which naturally set our wheels in motion.  You have heard of Two Men and a Truck?  Well, our moving company on this occasion was known simply as “Dolly and Son.”  
Downsizing is always a physical and emotional challenge, but I have enjoyed watching my mother receive her new space and customize it with the artifacts of her own personality.   
In reflection, this experience has shed light on many of the decisions facing many churches in this era of post-Christendom.  The choice between consumption and community is real.  Even so, the model of the Acts 2 Church is ever before us, daring to reshape our previously entrenched perceptions of the Christian family.  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.  Day by day…they spent much time together…praising God and having the goodwill of the people (2:44-47).
My family and I have elected to test this historic experiment in our basement.  I pray that the church of which you are a member will embark to do the same.  And speaking of the “goodwill of the people,” I want to thank you all for your continued commitment in paying our Conference Apportionments.  After the first quarter of 2017, the Baypines District was among the top in this Annual Conference for percentage paid.  When you consider the lives that are transformed by this distribution—the ‘room’ for grace that was created “as any had need”—I believe this is cause for great celebration.
Finally, I am excited to let you know that a district team has been assembled with San Pedro Mission to actively pursue the purchase of property for the use of this growing congregation in Baldwin County.  Please be in prayer for Rev. Enrique Escobar and the collective leadership of this effort.   I will be reaching out with more details on this venture in the coming days.  Your support of this future is appreciated.
I also look forward to sharing in the Right Start Event on Thursday with those clergy who will be receiving new appointments in the Baypines District.  The welcome picnic for these clergy and families will be Saturday afternoon, July 22, at FUMC in Gulf Shores.  Specific times and activities will be posted soon.  Save the date!
Grant us room, O God!