It was a long time coming. Immediately after my concert in Lethbridge a couple of years ago, Brad came up to me and boisterously shook my hand and said I must, I MUST, come to be the speaker at their L'Arche retreat. Brad is one of the core members of the L'Arche Lethbridge community
("core members" in a L'Arche community are the wonderfully gifted and loved people who have an intellectual disability and around whom the community is formed, living in a household with "assistants" and with the involvement and support of other "members" who participate in various ways in the life of the community). Marie, who had accompanied Brad and some other core members to the concert, smiled and nodded and gave me a little more background about L'Arche Lethbridge and their annual retreat (that's Brad in the cowboy hat on their website
A couple of months later I received an official letter of invitation from Brad and Marie, on behalf of the community, inviting me to come and be the resource person for their retreat. I was touched and grateful and excited... but I was already booked for that weekend. So I wrote back and asked if there was a chance I could participate some time farther into the future. Not long afterwards there was another reply, with an invitation to the following year's retreat.
So I've had this event on my calendar for about a year and a half... and this past weekend we were together at a little retreat centre in the Crowsnest Pass
, on the border between Alberta and BC. And the only thing more beautiful than this spectacular corner of God's good earth was the opportunity to witness and participate in the love and life of this community of faith.
I was asked to lead 4 sessions on the theme of "New Life - New Beginnings." As we explored the Scriptures together, it seemed to me that all I was doing was offering, again and again, another way of articulating (singing) the reality of new life and new beginnings that are lived (incarnated) in their life as community every day: God's work as creator (Genesis 1), God's calling and forming and sending people-in-community to be blessed and to be a blessing, as co-workers in God's ministry of reconciliation (Genesis 12, Acts 2, 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:1), the way our lives in community anticipate the "new heavens and new earth" that is God's vision and future for all of creation (Isaiah 65, Revelation 21, 22).
All of this is lived so fully, structured so carefully, shared so humbly in the life of the L'Arche community that has its problems and challenges, certainly, but that is a vivid witness to the Kingdom where the last are first, where those who are typically excluded are the feast's guests of honour, where the smallest of seeds grows to give shelter to all.
A glimpse of the Kingdom come.