Today is the last installment of this year’s “Communion with the Saints.” Guest writing today is my good friend Chris Bobay.
I’ve gotten to know Chris and his family over the past couple of years. I have to say, he is one of the most mission-minded people I’ve every met. He truly wants his whole heart to belong to Jesus.
It’s an honor to call him a friend. I hope you enjoy his story.
The Greek word for household is “oikos”. Your oikos consists of those you share life with. This is how the Gospel spread in the early church… house to house, oikos to oikos.
The first house I ever lived in was a little white house on Oak Street in New Albany. It was my grandma’s house. My mom and dad moved there when I was born to be with family. We lived there with my grandma and grandpa and two aunts. Dad earned a meager $4.50 per hour stocking shelves at the neighborhood grocery store. He had just graduated high school the year before. Mom worked at the store too, instead of finishing high school. Grandma had her hands full caring for her other two girls and my grandpa who was dying from cancer.
This was the family I was born into. My first oikos.
All in all, I lived in 18 different places before I graduated high school. This was normal for a lot of families like ours. Constantly on the move. Housing experts call this “residential mobility”. Anytime something changed (family, job, rent, lease, etc), it was time to move on. And like many other young, low-income families, change was constant. Sometimes we moved because we needed more space. Other times, because we didn’t like the landlord.
We just weren’t willing to settle. Not for too long anyway. It wasn’t in our DNA.
As you can imagine, the effects of this kind of lifestyle aren’t great. Studies show that a lack of stable relationships caused by constant moving negatively affects nearly every area of a child’s life, with longterm impacts on health and wellness, especially among the poor.
When it comes to the household of God, our eternal address may be fixed but our faith must be put into motion in order for us to grow. Spiritual mobility, if you will. The DNA of the Gospel is passed on like a virus. It spreads person to person, house to house. As we go through life, each of us has been commissioned to make disciples. It is in our relationships with our spiritual oikos – our extended missional family – where the Spirit transforms us. He won’t let us settle.
But what does discipleship look like for families on the move? It’s hard enough to develop meaningful relationships with those who stay put; which we’re learning can be a 5-10 year process to really move the needle. How do we expedite this process for the more mobile among us?
Since we can’t microwave relationships, let’s begin to think of ways we can make our time more meaningful. We can start by removing any gimmicks that don’t affirm humanity and don’t witness to the power of the Gospel to work in all people and all contexts. There’s just no time to waste.
What if we simply made a regular habit of incorporating discipleship into the basic universal oikos rhythms that all people relate to, like sharing meals and throwing parties? We all like to eat and celebrate. So much life is found around the dinner table. The table is a great equalizer.
My wife and I started sharing meals with a few kids in Midtown. We would invite them to dinner with our family and we’d simply treat them like oikos. One of the older kids, Kenny, reminded me a lot of my younger self. Over a 6 month period, I got to know Kenny pretty well. We became friends. I helped him learn to drive. I even helped him get a job. And I got to meet the people in his oikos. In our short time together, I’m thankful for the many opportunities God gave me to witness to Kenny.
I still remember the first night I drove him home from Midtown Commons. I pulled onto a familiar street. Stopped at a familiar house. And watched as he went up the steps to a familiar porch… the same little White House on Oak Street in New Albany where I once lived. He lived there with his mom, stepdad, little brother and grandpa.
I don’t see Kenny much anymore. He got a job now so he’s mobile. He still calls from time to time. They’ve since moved on from Oak Street, but they’re still in the neighborhood. A familiar story.
One thought on “Oak St. – Communion with the Saints, Episode 4”
As usual, I find the posts on this blog stimulating and I like to respond.
I have a lot of response with this one. Just short jaunts up dark alleys really. I suspect there is a lot to unpack – if dialog is spawned, but I don’t really anticipate it.
First off, I wonder if the author ever read Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement by Bouma-Prediger and Walsh. I wouldn’t expect anyone to swallow every line of that book hook, line, and sinker, but I count it as one of the more eye-opening books I ever read. Based on the thinking that book sparked with me, I would say the author grew up “homeless” – obviously not street-homeless, but homelessness of another form which is everbit a form of homelessness! Our culture is saturated in homelessness of various kinds. The insight gained from this viewpoint is indispensable, I think, and will then illuminate issues as well as ways to address them.
Next, I wrote a book (not published, so don’t look for it (not that you would particularly)) in which I theorize/theologize the notion of “HOME”. I started by centering the eating of meals in the home, but even before that, I looked at newborn/infants sucking the mother’s breast, and looked for trajectory from that meal to the Lord’s Supper and of course placed this analysis in conjunction with “home-cooked meals”. With Bouma-Prediger and Walsh as a background (among a few others) I develop an ideal “HOME” for our culture – one that could/should easily be ideal (or the envy of) most other cultures as well. (Most notably W. Brueggemann’s book Peace in which he makes a case for ordering the world around meals (siting the lunch counter protests of the civil rights movement among other observations.))
But the part that comes home to roost is the theological part… the inside of meal eating with loved ones having been prepared by loved ones for loved ones. Once sparks are bouncing between this picture and the Lord’s Supper, and especially in the context of “HOME” one quickly deduces (especially as an Evangelical Christian) that though four walls and a roof are vital, they do not make a “HOME”, just like all of King Herod’s gold and giant stones (think Mark 13:1-2) does not qualify the monstrosity in Jerusalem as temple. Temple is only TEMPLE if God lives in it. Likewise, a house is not really a HOME unless God dwells there! (Not discounting God living in your heart or Eph 2:19-22, but rather incorporating all of this and more.)
With these things in mind, I begin considering God as “the Homeless God”. That like his people being banished from the garden, so is He. When his people are in exile, so is He. That Jesus is the Carpenter building that House of God St Paul refers to in Ephesians.
HOME then becomes rather apocalyptic. But with all the transitory nature of our culture – largely transitory as a result of our pursuit of MONEY/Mammon, we are neglecting the HOUSE of God like servants unprepared for the Master’s return! (Mk 13:34-36). Our culture has its attention turned in the wrong direction but in ways involving matters people of faith tend to not champion or address in meaningful ways.
My suggestion is that we become home-makers. The Economics (as in Greek Oikonomia) take on fresh perspective as we invite Jesus into our homes Inviting him is (I would interject at this point) largely a matter of inviting the poor (widows, orphans, sojourners (The Matthew 25:40-Jesus) into our homes to eat with us as we set about ordering the world in love, trust, friendship, charity etc…!
In saying all this, I am in harmony, I think with the author’s post completely, and really happy to find it, since this kind of talk blesses me richly. But I hope to advance the discussion too, and I think, if I am on to the right scent here, that you and the author are plenty well qualified to advance it beyond what I have offered here!
Fat Beggars School of Prophets
Lubbock, Texas (USA)