3901 Lomaland Drive, San Diego
"Every year, I give up two things for Lent," said Dan from the lectern. "Brussels sprouts and skateboarding." A low laugh rose from the congregation -- the man looked to be a couple of decades past his skateboarding years. "But I'd like us to be challenged this Lenten season. We would encourage you to find a time when you can get alone with God and spend time with him in prayer. If that means you need to fast, then so be it." There followed a couple of hymns -- a folksy piano-banger ("From the Rising of the Sun"), breaking quickly into a full-bore old-time organ blast ("Jesus Shall Reign"), and then back again to the piano. Then a reading from Paul -- "We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" -- and a collection. Two more hymns -- again alternating piano and organ -- gave way to Marc's request for two extra contributions: one for the support of Global Missions and one for a local "work and witness" contingent bound for New Orleans. For the moment, Christian action replaced prayer as the focus.
This was the church's third and last "Changing the World Sunday," and the mission talk kept coming. Dean told the story of Healing Waters, a missionary relief project cofounded by a Point Loma Nazarene University alumnus and directed by people from the church. For $20,000, he said, Healing Waters could install water filtration systems in churches and then sell purified water at well below the going rate -- in the Dominican Republic, 10 pesos for five gallons vs. 40 pesos in the stores. People in these places, he said, are wracked with disease brought on by parasites, "until they start drinking water from the church. There's some wonderful symbolism involved here."
Joyce extended an invitation to join a mission trip to Honduras, where church members had done work in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch. "They remember this church as being the church that can minister like no other. They built a church by themselves...now they need a parsonage."
After asking God's blessing on his preaching and on the congregation, Pastor Dee Kelley began by laying out three key components of the spiritual life. One, "our one-on-one relationship with God"; two, "who we are in community, when we gather together as a body of believers"; and three, "living out our faith in the marketplace, in the world in which we live...being a witness of what God has done."
Kelley proposed that the notion of missions could apply to all three. The third -- "being a witness" -- was perhaps the most obvious, and he began there, saying, "I believe that God calls me, and I think He might call all of us, to be aware of what goes on in the world." He mentioned worldwide poverty, the tsunami, and the ongoing AIDS crisis. "God," he prayed, "open my eyes, that I might be more aware, and that as you give me the opportunity, I might participate in allowing my faith to have an impact on the world."
The community of believers, meanwhile, was invited to gather on a Sunday in March "to try to step into our community, as well as some of the needs of this church, this campus, to have some hours together of ministry. Being a missionary does not call us to be on the other side of the world. It calls us to be wherever God has us at any time, to be a reflection of Him."
When it came to his one-on-one relationship with God, he cited the parable in which the shepherd with 100 sheep left 99 of them to seek out the one who was lost. "I often viewed this as a great missionary parable.... But then I was stopped. God said, 'You do realize that you're the one I sought out, Dee? You're the one that the shepherd left heaven to seek. You are His mission field.' Dear Lord, may the dark places of my life be made available to you."
When we prayed the Our Father, Kelley asked people to keep their eyes open, even if it made them uncomfortable -- "looking at the community, because it is a community prayer. The pronouns used are collective in nature."
What happens when we die?
"I think Scripture speaks in two directions," says Kelley. "One, it speaks about people being asleep, in the sense that when the Messiah returns again, there will be an awakening of those who are asleep. But I don't think that necessarily contradicts what many within the Christian faith believe -- that after death, there is an immediate presence of the soul with the creator. My personal journey leaves me open to both of those possibilities."