“Christianity is a shocking religion, although many of its adherents have managed to protect themselves from its terrible impact. Tears, an awareness of one’s psychic fragility, and a deep sense of peace and joy are not the most obvious marks of believers today. Yet the shock of Christianity remains: the shock of its materialism in its particularity; the shock of its calling us to a messy and untidy intimacy. It claims that the flesh matters. It insists that history (the particularity of time and place) matters. Above all it claims that, in the end, nothing else but love matters.”
I preached this at Pleasant Street United Methodist Church in Waterville, ME this past Sunday. It was particularly wonderful to have a bunch of alumni from my home church in the pews to cheer me on, including two of my former Sunday School teachers. (I told the congregation to blame both of them for any offensive or theologically incorrect statements that I would make over the course of worship.)
For those of you who have not met me before (which I think would be most of you), my name is Ben Yosua-Davis; proud alumni of that school that’s up the road about a mile from here. [Colby College] In fact, in what I I think now qualifies as ancient history, I did a Jan-Plan internship at this church back in 2002; the most memorable piece, of course, not being when I preached, but when I led the Sunday School in a very enthusiastic dance that included a lot of stomping , a dance that was interrupted by a harried usher who very nicely informed me that “You need to be quiet, we’re worshipping down here!”
And speaking of worship, our next scripture passage from the first worship-book of the church, the Psalms; which shares with us about how we should approach God when we gather together as a community:
Now, as you might imagine, a lot has happened since I’ve last worshipped with you all. I now live now in a Norma Rockwell painting of a 1950’s small town; Chebeague Island, ME, with my wife Melissa, also a Colby alumn and the pastor of the only church on the island; and my 16 month old son, who is, in my perfectly objective opinion, the most beautiful boy in the world.
But today, I’d like to tell you a story from a previous chapter of my life, one where my wife and I went on a spiritual adventure in Haverhill,MA; one where we planted a new type of church: one that did not have a building or weekly worship, but instead met in homes, and in coffee shops, one that went onto the streets and made friends, and picked up trash, and threw block parties and community board game nights; and tried to love with open hands all the people that our society says are unlovable, a faith community that we called the Vine.
Our story begins on one cold evening in February, as Rob and I were leading Bible study, when I leaned over to him and said, “I need to tell you something.”
“I’m going to drop the F-bomb tonight.”