Eight years ago, four couples (including my wife and I) joined together for a life of intentional discipleship which came to be known as Exodus Community. In that time Exodus has welcomed in all sorts of folks from very different walks of life. They simply strive to be the Church to whomever they encounter…it’s not perfect, but it’s beautiful.
In the past 8 years, those four couples have brought 14 children into this world…what can I say, we’re a reproductive bunch.
Today, it’s the two most recent births that have me reflecting on Christ and the nature and mission of his Church.
A little more than three months ago, three of us four couples connected for a weekend away. No kids, good food, good drink, good fellowship. The fourth couple (Andy and Julie) stayed home as they were close to the due date for their fourth child Macy. As the six of us sat down for dinner that Friday evening, we called to see how the baby was doing. The events that followed will forever be in the memory of our community. After 38 weeks of healthy pregnancy we learned that our friends had lost their little girl.
We dropped everything, packed up, and headed back home to be with our friends. The days that followed were some of the most difficult we’ve ever gone through together. The sense of loss and deep sadness felt like is crept into our bones, we carry it with us and are reminded of it in a 100 different ways every day. A personal example of this comes when I see a photo of Andy and Julie’s other three children. Usually a photo of those bright smiles brings a smile to my face. But now, when I see those same photos, I can’t help but think to myself, “someone’s missing.”
This past week Exodus welcomed baby #14. Matt and Courtney (one of the other founding couples) had their fourth son Abel. In light of what happened only a few months ago Abel’s arrival brought with it a bunch of mixed emotions. We’re called to remember the loss that preceded him, and called to rejoice in the new life we’ve been blessed with…again mixed emotions.
We four couples have a tradition following the birth of a child. We order pizza, get some ice cream, and all meet up at the home of the newly born child. Over the years, these gatherings have grown larger as more children have been added…it’s quite an event now. And so, just as we have with the other children, we sat down with our pizza and enjoyed the new addition to the community.
Abel was passed from one pair of loving arms to the next, and then in a moment more sacred than I can describe, Julie took Able in her arms and held him like the experienced mother she is. It was at that moment that I realized why we had really gathered together that day. This was certainly a celebration, but it was also more. We, the people of God, Christ’s Church, gathered together as a holy act of defiance. Death won’t keep us quite, in fact while we were sitting around talking about Abel, we were also talking about Macy.
Our culture is terrified of death. We use terms like “passed away” rather than “died”. We spend so much time trying to prevent the inevitable day when we will breathe our last breath and in our efforts, we keep ourselves from truly living. And beyond that, when we fear death, we let it have the last word in our lives. When we celebrated Abel’s birth, we in essence told the forces of death that they haven’t beaten us because they haven’t beaten our savior. Jesus is why we gather together at the home of baby Abel and at the graveside of baby Macy.
I think of Paul’s words when he defines his co-laborers as “sorrowful, but always rejoicing.” My brothers and sisters are trying to embrace that way of life. They won’t morn like those without hope, but they won’t pretend that death isn’t real. They won’t rejoice in a way that’s cheap, but they won’t stop celebrating. May they stay the course of holy defiance, remembering those we’ve lost for now, proclaiming the empty tomb and longing for the day when all will be made new.