It was sort of a homecoming. I had the opportunity to return to the DC metro area for the Being Truly Human gathering May 7-9, 2015, primarily located at the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA. Having served about 18 years in DC as a pastor and church planter, it was great to be in the area. Part of being truly human, in light of the resurrection of Jesus, is being connected as sister and brother with others—even people of different racial and ethnic background—who follow the way of Jesus.
The gathering allowed for connection. Yes, there was information (and I’ll get to that in a minute), but connection was of primary importance to me. I had interchanges with people I have known personally as well as people I only knew by reputation or through their writings. People who take seriously the commands of Jesus to love God and love others are a rare breed, and this gathering attracted precisely those kinds of people. I found spaces to hear how God is at work around the country.
In addition to personal connections, there was good information. It would be easy to drop some names. However, I seriously do not want to give in to the pressure to view the gathering as having been a collection of celebrities. Evangelicalism has its celebrities, but part of what we examined is the notion that a focus on “celebrity” is contrary to what it means to be truly human. As we heard in plenary talks as well as forum discussions and workshops, living a resurrectional life means seeing people in new ways. We must see people—male and female—as being made in the image of God whether able-minded or mentally challenged; whether able-bodied or physically challenged; whether wealthy or financially impoverished; whether part of the majority culture or a member of an ethnic or racial minority.
I was particularly enlightened by discussions in a forum that made us think about people who might be considered powerless in our culture, namely those with physical and mental challenges such as Down Syndrome, or the elderly who are frequently overlooked in churches. What might it mean for us to consider those people as truly human in view of the resurrection of Jesus?
As I work through a project on the book of 1 Peter, the Being Truly Human gathering reminded me of how Peter praises God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, because “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:3-4a). Peter writes about what it means to be truly human in light of the resurrection of Jesus.
Peter also mentions inheritance, which is part of a kind of homecoming set to take place in the future.
Right now, I’m grateful for the homecoming I had because of Missio Alliance’s ability to pull together people from a variety of places to explore important topics of Christian faith.