Let’s paint a Puerto Rican single mom and her toddling half-Mexican daughter. Let’s add a teenage black boy. And his two sisters, one twelve years old, the other seventeen. Let’s paint a Nigerian doctor, and a white nurse who was raised in Hawaii. Let’s paint a white college student studying fashion, and a black one studying audiology. A Brazilian soccer coach, and his newly wedded dancer wife. A Colombian railroad worker. A black rapper. A white guy who owns his own computer business. A black teen mom who has been separated from her daughter. Let’s paint a half-Argentinean guy from California and his roommate from Kansas. And let’s add one more white girl into that mix.
Stroke that brush and depict them sharing a meal. Someone makes some soup. Someone brings some bread and cheese. Sandwiches are made. A pretty cake appears, and someone else traipses through the door with homemade mint tea in hand.
Let’s paint this small crowd sharing this meal in the living room of a two-bedroom triplex located on the border of the impoverished and crime-ridden part of the city. Let’s paint a scene where the fifteen-year-old black kid leads the whole group in remembering Jesus’ great sacrifice by offering them a broken piece of a pita chip dipped in glass of Coca-Cola. Stories are told from the week, stories of how the God who upholds the universe by the word of His Power invades each of their own little worlds.
Paint a book with words of life, and everyones hands held open on their laps. Paint understanding pouring out in the form of simplicity off the lips of the twelve-year-old. Paint tears in a few eyes. Paint light dancing in many hearts. Let’s be sure to paint smiles. And great sobs. And uncontrollable laughter.
Let’s paint the picture of these beautiful people praying for the sick in their midst. Show how some are healed immediately. Let’s not forget to add the scene where one girl’s leg is shorter than the other and grown miraculously on the spot. Paint the prophetic words that fly around the room, and the ones that fly across the city via phones and laptops. Depict the teenagers helping the single mom distract her little one, so she can have a twenty-minute break.
Paint that picture in such a way that we know that a few of those individuals have not yet made decisions to follow Jesus. And several just started following Him a few months ago. A handful more have known Him for just a couple of years. Only a few have really known Him long.
In the middle of the painting, show the highschool students breaking up fights at their strife-ridden schools. Show the Nigerian doctor sharing the good news of Jesus to a pregnant girl in his clinic. Paint the nurse praying fearlessly over each of her ill patients, at the risk of losing her job. Paint a few of the crowd driving their dear friend to the emergency room and taking her tiny kids home for the weekend. By the way, their friend is a stripper & addict with sickness ravaging her body. Let’s paint a scene where the computer business owner takes flowers to the eighteen-year-old while she recovers in the hospital after being shot in a drive-by shooting.
Paint these beautiful people crowded around a fountain nearby, as someone who just experienced the forgiveness of Jesus gets baptized by someone who has never baptized anyone before.
I wanted to paint a picture. I suppose we painted a mural. I suppose if we painted all this it would take up the whole side of one of these dilapidated buildings I can see out the back window that faces Troost Avenue. If we paint with broad strokes it might cover a few.
What shall we name this lovely mural?
Let’s call it church.
(Note: This is not a far-off dream. This is not a bunch of nice ideas. This is my present reality. I have personally experienced all of these things happening within the last month, both here with my local spiritual family and as I have spent time with spiritual families on the other side of the nation. I am in awe of what can happen when people begin to encounter the love of God for them. I’ve tasted the miracle that Jesus called “church.” And all I want is MORE. This times a million, doused with even greater hope, greater faith, greater compassion.)