Developing Spiritual Lifestyle Practices - Day Eleven: Voluntary Displacement

Today we are continuing our exploration of the twelve spiritual lifestyle disciplines that are outlined in Fr. Richard Rohr's book Just This. 

The discipline we are exploring this morning is what Fr. Richard calls "Voluntary Displacement."

The way that most Christians have done missional work in the world is to go out and do.  We deliver resources, clothing, food, etc. by hand to organizations or ministries who are putting them in the hands of those who need them.

Or we travel on short-term mission trips so that we can build houses in Mexico, repair or remodel rooms in schools in Guatemala, or we find other ways to spend what would have been a week of vacation doing something in-person, with our hands, feet and heart engaged.

Up until now it's worked pretty well---all of this doing.

But now we are met with a particularly challenging crisis that has limited our capabilities to do, at least in the ways we have in the past.  We are having to get creative in our doing, for sure.

This challenge has also afforded us the space to think more deeply about what constitutes doing, what constitutes mission and ministry.  We have had to rethink what it means to step out of our comfort zone and continue to follow Jesus toward those who are in need.

It also gives us the opportunity to consider why we desire to do missional things, to ask ourselves about our impulses to help others, to do good in the world.  This is essentially what Fr. Richard proposes with this particular spiritual lifestyle practice.

Fr. Richard asserts that Jesus did not command his followers to go out into the world "to care for the poor, or visit the sick, primarily to help them, to save our souls, or to be his version of the Red Cross."

That's pretty hard to hear, but it's some straight up truth.

What he means to say is that we need to realize that we aren't to put ourselves in the role of Savior, that spot is already taken.  Nor are we to enter into missional work in order to make ourselves feel better about ourselves.  

Our reasons for doing good in the world should be deeper than that. 

I believe there's a pervasive colonial mentality when it comes to the way that the Church in America typically goes out and does missional work.

In other words, there are far too many of us Christians who want to dictate the terms and conditions of the ways that they act as the hands and feet of Christ.  We see marginalized people as objects, who need us to transform their situation.

Fr. Richard believes that we are called to missional work out in the world so that we can be transformed by the marginalized people we encounter and forever changed by those on the front lines of injustice with whom we work alongside, share resources with, etc.  He writes:
[Jesus] sent us to "otherness" to get us out of our own unquestioned assumptions, our own tribalism, and our self-referential worldviews that have only kept us xenophobic, ethnocentric, nationalistic...
In other words, we need to do more than simply parachute in to missional moments as heroes that are arriving to save the day.

Instead, we are called to stand in solidarity with those who are on the margins, and allow ourselves to be changed by being present with them, partnering together and identifying (whenever possible) with them.

In order to experience this we must first voluntarily displace ourselves from the comfort of power and control, to the discomfort of uncertainty, surrender, trust and humility.

The current climate we are living in makes it difficult to do the things we used to do.  We used to be humans doing, but now we are being forced to examine what it would look like to be humans being.

The needs in the world have not gone away--in fact, they have multiplied.  So now we have to find new ways to be in solidarity with those who are hurting, suffering, alone, poverty-stricken and vulnerable.

In the age of coronavirus this might look a lot like just walking across the street to check on a vulnerable neighbor, or it could look like donating money to organizations that are providing resources in ways that we cannot.

It might be as simple as hosting a socially distant block party, safely providing meals or treats for first responders and those on the front lines of the battle against COVID19.  

And if you think that all of these things seem pretty comfortable for you, perhaps you should try something else.  Voluntary displacement in your case might look like you, video calling and checking on that old friend or co-worker that you parted ways with on bad terms.  

Or reconciling with a family member you've been estranged from for years.  

On a personal note, I am so proud of my church family in the ways that we have navigated this.  It hasn't been easy to do, but we are learning new ways to make a difference in doing, and also how we can be absolutely transformed by being... 

And by being I mean this... being vulnerable with those who are vulnerable, being present (as we can) with those who need connection, being ready to give when giving is required, being still to hear the voice of God in the voice of those who are struggling. 

May you find ways to make this true in your life.  May you discover a path toward solidarity of spirit with those who are on the margins in the world around you, and may you find ways to be present with them even when you can't be doing. 

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.


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