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My First Rodeo

This is my first rodeo.

I learned a lot in Divinity School. I learned a new language and vocabulary. A new way of seeing the world. A new way of engaging the Bible. I was changed and transformed by stories of the matriarchs and patriarchs of our faith.

But I did not learn how to create and launch a fundraising initiative. It was not part of the paradigm. Not a requirement for ordination.

So as it relates to that, this is my first rodeo.

And while this may be my first rodeo, I've been blessed with so many others who have stepped in to share their wisdom and voice and experience (#tbtg). It’s been a true community effort of dreaming and designing how we would roll out this initiative and communicate our needs and point to a beautiful, God-sized dream of what’s to come.

But let me tell you: A few weeks ago, when I first hit send on the email announcing Everybody In, I had all. of. the. feels. At least for me, it’s a vulnerable thing to ask for financial support — to put myself out there on behalf of The Local Church. But it wasn't just that.

I worried you’d think we were being greedy. I worried it was too soon to ask. I worried your suspicions about church and the institution would be confirmed — as if you were sitting there on your phone or iPad or computer thinking, “Ah, well, there it is. I knew this day would come.”

And maybe you did feel that way. But I hope you’ve also read these letters or listened to enough podcasts or been around The Local Church long enough to know that that’s not our mojo. Instead, our mojo is to point to a future in our community filled with God’s radical, reckless love and scandalous grace and barrier-breaking belonging.

It's the type of community Rachel wrote about.

Saturday was the funeral for thinker and writer and overall amazing human being, Rachel Held Evans, who died last month at age 37. Rachel’s wisdom and witness gave voice to stirrings in the souls of so many who had questions about their faith and wondered if they had a place in the story of God. Natalie and I had the great joy of meeting Rachel and her husband Dan a few years ago — a time we will cherish forever. (Curious to read some of Rachel's work? Start with Faith Unraveled or Searching for Sunday, and then try A Year of Biblical Womanhood.)

At her funeral, Rachel’s friend, Nadia Bolz-Weber, preached and offered the benediction. The benediction incorporated words that Rachel, herself, had written in her too-brief, yet prolific, career, and it brought me to tears. We're talking ugly cry status. I couldn’t help but think, “This. This is it. This is the dream. This is why we do what we do.”

Here is the benediction:

Blessed are the agnostics. Blessed are they who doubt. Blessed are those who have nothing to offer. Blessed are the preschoolers who cut in line at communion. Blessed are the poor in spirit. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you. 

Blessed are those whom no one else notices. The kids who sit alone at middle-school lunch tables. The laundry guys at the hospital. The sex workers and the night-shift street sweepers. The closeted. The teens who have to figure out ways to hide the new cuts on their arms. Blessed are the meek. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you. 

Blessed are they who have loved enough to know what loss feels like. Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried. Blessed are they who can’t fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else. Blessed are those who “still aren’t over it yet.” Blessed are those who mourn. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you. 

I imagine Jesus standing here blessing us because that is our Lord’s nature. This Jesus cried at his friend’s tomb, turned the other cheek, and forgave those who hung him on a cross. He was God’s Beatitude — God’s blessing to the weak in a world that admires only the strong.

Jesus invites us into a story bigger than ourselves and our imaginations, yet we all get to tell that story with the scandalous particularity of this moment and this place. We are storytelling creatures because we are fashioned in the image of a storytelling God. May we never neglect that gift. May we never lose our love for telling the story. Amen.

You're ugly crying now, too, aren't you?

So sure, this may be my first rodeo, but y'all, it’s worth the ride, because I believe this ☝️is our mojo. I believe this is God’s dream for The Local Church as a faith community — as it continues to grow and flourish — with God’s help through you. We have a story to tell in this community and in this world. And maybe it does seem too soon. Maybe it is awkward. But I pray you’ll commit and invest to help this dream come to life, because here's the thing: I believe you’ll be transformed along the way, too.

If you have already made a commitment, thank you x 1,000. I am filled with gratitude and humbled that you’ve said yes. And, as always, if I can respond to questions or offer clarity or if you have suggestions on something you’d do differently, I am humbly here and open and willing to receive. Reply to this email, or let’s set a time to get together.

Or you can ask me at the Everybody In Launch Party (!!!) this Saturday evening.

I look forward to seeing you there. Until then, love where you are.

with you and for you,

Brent LevyComment