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this man JESUS
Missional Leadership Apprenticeship
MetroSoul Media
Events & Gatherings

Drum Circle
Written by Jared   
Tuesday, 19 June 2007
I'm in Los Angeles -- Pasadena to be exact -- as part of an academic program in missiology. I miss my family, but the program itself is a great experience. We are with our cohort from morning til evening everyday for two weeks as part of an intensive residency, but we get the weekend off to rest and get ready to week 2.

So I found a cheap rate on a car rental for the weekend and spent Sunday afternoon at Venice Beach. I read, prayed, walked, and contemplated God's mission in the city. And I couldn't help but take in the sights: palm readers, street performers, artists, Quasi-Eastern mysticism, beachside body builders, team sports, vendors of all sorts, the works!

What really caught my attention was the drum circle. It was a circle of people hanging out in the middle of the beach between the pedestrian street and the surf. Probably a hundred or so people were gathered in a circle for a type of community that apparently takes place on Venice Beach every weekend. There had to be at least two dozen percussion instruments of all types -- steel drums, bongos, cow bells, base drums, you name it and it was there. And the rhythm just goes on for hours. Some could rest while others played, and then play while the others rested, but the rhythms never stopped. A few people were dancing in the middle of the circle, and every now & then the wind would reveal the unmistakable scent of marajuana being inhaled from somewhere in the crowd. (I used to smell it nearly every night from the apartment next door to ours when I first moved to the Bronx.)

For a while, I just sat and enjoyed the rhythms and people-watched. And I realized this was a community. People greeted one another as familar faces. Anyone was welcome. Everyone appeared to be approachable, welcoming, and comfortable. It was inclusive. Young, old, black, white, Asian, men, women. Some guys looked like they'd be in the office the next morning while others sported dread locks or mohawks with sun-soaked skin as if the beach was their first -- not their second -- home. Anyone was welcome. You could sit and beat your drum. You could dance in the circle or just sit back and groove to the rhythms. You could take your spot where the rhythms pounded the strongest, or you could hang back a little distance away.

It wasn't Christian. Some made it quite obvious that they were not Christ-followers. But there was something to learn here as I reflected on the life of Jesus. Jesus hung out in places like this and among people like this. All were welcome into His presence. The zealot, the pharisee, the tax collector, the prostitute, the once-diseased, the children, the women, the Samaritan, and so on. Each person was given dignity, opportunity, and choice. Mortal enemies found themselves in the same circle with Jesus. They could come into the circle and begin to follow the rhythm of the Master or they could sit out on the edges of the circle as part of the masses and just observe. I began also thinking about our churches -- homogeneous, polished, professional -- and how disturbing it might be that this group of sinners, unbelievers, and the like might actually look more like the parties Jesus frequented than many of our church gatherings. We do well at building institutions, planning services, and organizing events, and none of these are bad things in and of themselves. However, the question that I hope & pray will guide every aspect of my life & service to God will be: Do I look like Jesus?

Are we a people where outsiders can hear the Gospel without coercion? Do we welcome the "other" with dignity? Does the rhythm of our life resemble that which compelled Jesus into the lives of the broken and marginalized? Is the rhythm of our life in step with the rhythm of the Master? Do we look like Jesus?
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