The Summer Scattering. That’s what I call it—the diaspora that happens around here, and pretty much every place where summer weather and school vacations make such alternative plans and travel possible. It’s certainly not a bad thing. But it does take us out of the regular routines and gatherings and places where we tend to at least think more about God and faith and community and service. Indeed it may be for that very reason that it is a good thing, for it stretches us to become aware of the Holy in new ways and places—which is more or less the thesis for this article. I write this to remind you to be alert and open to such possibilities even as you are away from familiar places and routines.
In the Bible it says several times, “Those that have ears, let them hear.” It never technically says, “Those that have eyes, let them see.” But such is clearly implied, as Woody Guthrie would later prove, the two lines work awfully well together in a song. But the good rhythmic King James here really doesn’t give us a good sense of the meaning of the Greek. A better translation would be “Those that have ears, listen up!” And in like manner “Those that have eyes, open them!” It’s a call to be alert to the God that is constantly seeking to comfort, save, call, challenge at all times….even when we are scattered.
So if you are in town this summer, I hope you will continue to gather with us, but if you are scattered, don’t leave God behind….listen up, open up to, as Barbara Brown Taylor would put it, the Altars in the World.
In your journeying, consider the idea of pilgrimage. What are you leaving? What is your destination? How are you getting there? What does God’s presence mean at every stage of the journey? What might this trip teach you about your life journey right now, and as a whole?
In traveling into another place, how is God visible there? Could there be opportunities not just to be served, but to serve? How might that add to your experience? What does living in a space owned/inhabited by others teach us about stewardship and hospitality and how dependent we are on the grace of God and others?
What does the act of relaxation and vacation have to teach us about Sabbath and our need for rest? What does it have to teach us about our valuable yet not essential place in this world, of how all that we have is not generated, earned, or bought, but comes to us as gift?
What does this scattering have to teach us about Community and the God-in- others? Whom do we miss? Whom do we meet? Whom do we get to know better? What new lessons do we learn from new communities and people that we can bring back to our church and community here in Memphis?
In short….as you scatter, both near and far….listen up, open up. God has much to teach you, and us. And when you’re in town, let’s gather up for each other and for new folks moving into town. Summer is not just the season of scattering, it’s also the season of relocating. Let’s be here to welcome others and report on how God is moving in our midst even now.
This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge
and originally published in the June edition of Together