The love and devotion between Tabitha and her neighbors had been built over thousands of unexceptional everyday encounters. I imagine her passing her neighbors along the street, greeting them in the market, and lingering together in shaded conversations away from the hot sun. It probably also involved more than a few funerals (her neighbors were widows living in a military town). Most of it was probably pretty unglamorous stuff. They were daily, often anonymous encounters of kingdom-love. Tabitha was a beacon of faithful participation.
Faithful participation happens when we coach little league, attend neighborhood association meetings or volunteer at the local school. Faithful participation happens when we choose to plant our garden in the front yard instead of the backyard, so that our weekends can be spent greeting our neighbors passing by (and distributing the always 'more than you asked for' zucchini crop). Faithful participation happens when we choose to spend an unstructured Saturday morning in the neighborhood coffeehouse or an evening on the front porch, instead of hiding away in the TV room. It is found in the daily, often anonymous encounters of kingdom-love.
Faithful participation might also mean attending more than a few funerals along the way.
What Jason Did
Pastor Jason decided that even though the Harvest Festival was important, the opportunity to be at home greeting his neighbors was more important. He explained his heart to his boss and was graciously released from his church responsibilities that October 31 evening.
Jason went home and (armed with a heaping bowl of sweets) spent the evening in his entryway. Every time there was a knock, he opened the door with a grin and a greeting. He knew a few of the children's names and complimented them on their creative costumes.
His real joy was found in the parent chaperones. Some names he knew and so many he didn't. He saw the couple who live two blocks over who love to work their garden. In his five years in the neighborhood, though he had greeted them many times, he had never asked them their names: "Bill and Jenny." He made a mental note and promised himself he wouldn't forget. He met the man who owns the neighborhood grocery store and even got a smile out of the grumpy president of the local PTA. All the while, he was adding to his mental map the names and faces of his neighborhood.
All through the evening Jason marveled, not only was he participating with his neighbors during a pagan holiday, but the holiday itself was actually funneling his neighbors to his front door.
He thought, "If that isn't just like God, I don't know what is."
Tony Kriz is a writer and church leader from Portland, Oregon, and author in residence at Warner Pacific College.
Copyright © 2013 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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