The Jeremiah Community is a mixed up people. I am not saying that we don’t know what we’re doing. Nor am I saying, in that all-to-easy and self-congratulatory way, that we are “diverse” and “inclusive” community. There may be elements of truth to both of these things, but we are mixed up in a more fundamental sense: we are a gathering of peculiar persons, with different histories, different passions, different gifts, and different weaknesses, who are somehow trying to become a peculiar people – trying to become a people gathered by and striving for the reign of God. But how do peculiar persons become a peculiar people? There is no easy path to this transformation. It is a process that must be undergone, not a plan to be implemented.
But there are ways to cultivate the space or the context within which such transformation can take place more effectively. When Jesus called his disciples, he did not mince words concerning what it was they were in for: “whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matt 10:38) And yet, Jesus simultaneously calls his followers into a space of comfort and of “rest” (Matt 11:28-30). Within the space of rest – that invitation to participate in the Sabbath of God (Heb 4) – the hard work of transformation can take place.
It is a space or a context very much like this that we are attempting to create as a number of us formally commit ourselves to the life of the Jeremiah Community in covenant. Promise – paradigmatically in the covenants that God establishes with God’s creation, and by extension in a covenant made between persons before God – can become a context of safety and a space of stability within which the difficult work of “life together” can be undertaken. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove has spelled out the practical substance of such promising. Beneath the words that we will say before God, before the wider church, and before one another, is the promise to stick around in the hope of transformation.
“I won’t run. I won’t run from the way this place exposes me as limited. I won’t run in the hopes that I will be appreciated more somewhere else. I’m going to stay. And in staying I’m going to trust that God’s love is enough to transform me and to transform this place… in the mixed up community of people that God is gathering in this place.”