Last Sunday, we lined the halls of Slate with some demographic information related to the city of Richardson. During the announcement time, we were encouraged to peruse the maps and charts after the service to see if anything grabbed our attention — to see if there were any patterns, surprising details, or even stats that would break our heart and the heart of our loving and just God.
The demographic information we provided is useful but limited in scope. It doesn’t touch on every unique aspect of the Richardson population, and what it does reveal is void of the stories that inform the lives of each point in the datasets.
The financial poverty ripe in some neighborhoods is matched by the spiritual and relational poverty in others — a poverty difficult to quantify in a graph but evident nonetheless. The chart indicating the number of Christians in the area is arbitrary to an extent. A person’s desire to check a denominational affiliation on a survey could be based on their heartfelt conviction of their identity in Christ, which is subsequently reflected in the fruit they bear in their lives, or it could be based upon some unseen cultural expectation to check the box they have always deemed necessary to check.
We know from living here that there is more to this place and its people than what is depicted in each foam board leaning against the walls of Slate. Yet, we also know the colors, shapes, and sizes blotted on them reflect a reality we experience every day when we walk through our neighborhood, shop at our local grocery store, and pick up our kids from school. The presence and absence of datasets tell us something we already know to be true about our locale, but maybe in the routine and mundane of life, we have forgotten.
Throughout the summer during our announcement time, we are going to return back to the demographics posted in the hallway and be encouraged to notice what is depicted on them — not because they say something we don’t already know or experience in our life in Richardson but to begin the practice of seeing again.
While my life moves at a more leisurely pace than it used to, I still meander through it with eyes cast down. Maybe it is a disposition I carry within my nature that bends my eyes away from others; maybe it is an effect of the pandemic that I haven’t quite shook; maybe it is a fear burrowed within me that hinders my ability peel my eyes away from my feet to meet the eyes of a neighbor. I don’t really know.
I know my eyes are looking away, and I need help. I need practice. I need passive ways to train my eyes to see the needs of others. I need a worshipping community that is also wrestling their eyes away from the floor. I need gentle nudges to continue seeing in my day-to-day life — whether it be the elderly man in my neighborhood who struggles to do his yard work or the 40%+ agnostics/atheists in our city who need Jesus.
Our sermon series this summer is The Church in Practice where we will be looking at our liturgy in light of Ephesians. Each Sunday service we rehearse a story that orients us to see ourselves and the world rightly, and as we receive the body and blood of Christ, we are transformed. This transformation is not meant to keep us confined within the four walls of our sanctuary, but instead, this new vision allows for us to see clearly the state of our neighborhoods and community for the purpose of joining God in his restorative work of our city.
I pray that this summer of practice will form us — will form me — more into the image of Christ so that we see the needs God is calling us to meet in our city.