The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.
Recently, reading Samuel Well's: A Nazareth Manifesto and The Abundant Community by John McKnight and Peter Block, I have been drawn back to St John's prologue.
Although I've been involved in many conferences and conversations with church leaders and with civic leaders about Asset Based Community Development, what I've witnessed and experienced has largely been an attitude of "doing for" rather than "doing with" in community initiatives. More about enabling than empowering. More about filling gaps than encouraging growth. Sometimes considerable resources have gone into undertaking community research and then acting on findings, ploughing in further resources. And the reality is that resource rich intervention is hard to replicate.
Even when considerable assets have been identified within the community, it seems that the temptation to enhance the gifts present is still compelling. The question is: Whose needs are being met?
It's much more difficult to simply highlight potential and allow that potential to flourish without dictating direction.
Generosity calls not just for open hands but for open hearts and minds that allow natural growth and development as well as stumbles and falls. It involves the recognition that the gifts are there waiting to be released. It involves taking risks, gambling that the odds are stacked in favour of abundance rather than scarcity.
In the gospels, we see Jesus hanging out - in kitchens, in the temple, on the beach, by the lakeside, taking time to be with those around him. Not imposing an agenda. Not introducing a programme. But making friends, forming relationships, listening and entering into the story of those around him. "Moving into the neighbourhood" as The Message translates John 1:14.
As we discern where God is at work in our neighbourhoods today, it will always be tempting to plunge in, rolling up our sleeves as we go. But God invites us to find our place in the stories of our community by offering a generous presence - a presence that listens more than speaks, a presence that receives more than gives, a presence that connects stories rather than writes them, a presence that sticks around, becoming rooted, showing commitment to weaving stories together, to making connections simply by being present and open to the communities in which we live, in whom we are invested and by whom we are changed. Our call is to be in our neighbourhood, practising those gifts of generosity. Not an easy call for those of us who are more comfortable doing rather than being and whose default is more ministering to than ministering with.
What might it be like to move into our neighbourhoods, practising the kind of generosity that releases the God given gifts of others?