About ten weeks ago I wrote a blog about Alpha (a ten week class for people interested in the spiritual journey). Well, let me share some reflections on it.
First off, I feel a bit like an outsider in my own culture. Who in our country has 50 people over to their house for dinner every week? That’s just sort of odd. It takes a bit of set up, it makes a mess, and there’s a lot of screaming kids running around everywhere so it doesn’t feel real churchy (you know, solemn and reverent).
And then there’s the crowd that shows up. These are the crazies. (Hmm, I suppose there’s a reason they feel comfortable coming over to my house). I say crazies because even though most are from my neighborhood, they are from all over the map.
First off, virtually every week someone showed up that I’d never met before. Their ages range from two months to about 70. There are folks who are chronically unemployed, underemployed, blue collar, and white collar. There are folks who are straight, gay, single, living together, married, separated, divorced, and remarried. There are folks with all kinds of national backgrounds – Haitian, Vietnamese, Dominican, Kenyan, Kuwaiti, Canadian, Cambodian, German, Mexican, Filipino, and Chinese, besides just your run of the mill African Americans, European Americans, and Latinos.
And then there’s my favorite form of diversity, the spiritual diversity. That’s the point of Alpha, anyway – to encourage everyone to go on the spiritual journey regardless of where they are at this point. We’ve got agnostics and Christians, the occasional atheist and anarchist, the ‘spiritualist,’ a fundamentalist, and a Southern Baptist woman who breaks out singing old spirituals every now and then over dessert. My Muslim friend keeps showing up and bringing other friends with him. One guy shared on his first night that one grandparent was a Buddhist, one was an atheist, one was a Mormon, and one was a Christian – and, for good reason, he just isn’t sure what he believes.
One of the things I love most about Jesus is that he enjoys hanging out with people like this. Everyone is welcome around him. Everyone gets to ask their questions and go on their own journey. Everyone gets to be loved and listened to. And, if you look at the stories about Jesus, you’ll see that he spends a lot of time eating with people. So I guess that means we’re in good company.
And besides being welcomed, everyone in the company of Jesus gets challenged. We get challenged to take one step closer to being honest about what’s really going on in our hearts and souls, to take one step away from the things that are killing us inside, and to take one step closer to him.