What We Crave

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

(Reflections from Barberton Community of Christ’s 5th Wednesday Swiss Steak Community Dinner)

Last night I went to church and engaged the tasks of meal making and hospitality preparing with a group of disciples who welcomed me as family though some I had never met.

As we waited for the community to arrive, we traded stories while mashing potatoes and cutting pies.

I talked poetry and theology in the dinner line, watching neighbors take heaping helpings of a home cooked meal-

Green beans
Mashed potatoes
Swiss steak
Salad
Coleslaw (you will want to ask Kay for the recipe)

Pies and brownies around the corner

Bread and butter on the tables

We were sent home with a potato masher, 3 containers of leftovers, and half a strawberry rhubarb pie…

And embraces so tender and genuine that I left the building with a teary warmth I’ve yearned for, the kind of whole-hearted community nurturing my heart seeks.

I can see the comfort this type of gathering brings, why the poor and the elderly show up to be tended in body and spirit.

Something here is the church as it’s meant to be- a grace offering with no agenda, love unrestricted.

And still, I couldn’t help feeling a pang of grief for these trying-to-be-faithful people as they struggle against the same trends of decline that have been afflicting and reforming the church all over. 25 members strong on a Sunday morning, they wonder what God wants to make of them, wonder why more young families don’t want to come. On a critical day, I could offer a whole list of reasons.

But as I bask in the lingering glow of being truly loved by the body of Christ, however small, a different thought emerges…

Perhaps quieter than all the other voices aimed at “fixing” the church.

It says things like:
These are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased
and
The kingdom has come near
and even this:
The salvation of the world is in loving community such as this.

For a moment, I hold in my heart’s gaze all the world’s suffering, including those responsible for inflicting it, and I imagine all of us in the dinner line together…

Ruthellen’s tender embrace welcoming each one, assuring us,

“there is plenty, take what you need.”

We sit at the table and stories are shared and souls are mended and the whole earth begins to heal.

This is what love can do. This is the secret treasure we hold that the world craves. This is what I long for deep in my bones. This is the hunger that keeps drawing us together.

This is how the living Christ shows up and breathes upon us-
Peace.

And Sometimes This Is How The Spirit Works…

[For my father-in-law, Don McLaughlin, who has always believed the kingdom of God is at the DMV!]

by Katie Harmon-Mclaughlin

And sometimes this is how the Spirit works…

Despite my best attempts at describing and containing and formulating
Even at trying to perfect my practices of prayer…

It happens unexpected
In waves of humbling awareness
That wash over me as grace

Today it was at the DMV
Such an ordinary, human place
Of diverse people waiting together
And in the midst of my busyness
I was forced to stop for a couple sacred minutes
To be part of the waiting community

And impatience gave way to awe
As I listened to the man behind the counter say
Over and over again
As he took pictures for renewed licenses
“Look over here, young lady”
To women who were not particularly young
But smiled instinctively
At the friendliness he shared

And I watched the woman behind the counter
Make jokes with people writing their checks
And a sense of ease filled the place
Because of simple human kindness
And transactions transformed into relationships

And suddenly I saw
I really saw
All the people around me

And deep-love tears filled my eyes
In the middle of the DMV!

And my heart burst open with
GRATITUDE
At this surprising realization
Of the presence of the holy
Here
In this common place

And sometimes this is how the Spirit works
When and where we least expect
Whispering into our daily realities
“Pay attention- I am here.”

We Wait: An Advent Poem

by Brittany Longsdorf

As a child watches the window
for signs of first snow
we wait
for you
oh, infant Christ

We have stooped low at the river Jordan
with John the Baptist
plagued by uncertainties,
our world in turmoil,
tempest-tossed days

We have been righteously called out,
over-taxed, burdened,
found wanting
on our journey

We have knocked at the Inn,
found rejection,
uncommon hope,
deep warmth
in the unlikely places

We have gathered here
compassion and community
sifting through the darkness
for one white flake
one flurry of light
for the world

We are watching at the manger
we wait
for you
oh, infant Christ.

Brittany Longsdorf is a University Chaplain at Boston University who specializes with international and interfaith students. With an undergraduate degree in Religion from Graceland University and an M.Div in World Religions from Princeton Theological Seminary, she has a passion for multicultural ministry, interfaith work, and spiritual formation of Young Adults. Brittany is currently an Elder in the Community of Christ church.