"Bellflower Boulevard" - Pastor Jim Kuiper
On Bellflower Boulevard there is a knitting shop, run by Candice. She doesn't just sell needles of many sizes, and yarns of every color, but there is usually in her knitting shop a circle of people, knitting together, snacking together, talking together. Some of them are dressed fancy, some are dressed plain. One talks about family, another about kids, another about the school district. Talking together about living alongside each other in the community.
Down the street from Candice, Milton runs a shoe shine stand. Milton is a gifted conversationalist, so one does not just get shoes shined by Milton, but there is a conversation while he shines, sometimes about the nice things and sometimes the challenges of the community. You don't have to be a customer and Milton will talk with you, a person just walking by or a homeless person taking a breather on the curb; Milton will talk. Milton talks about life in this community, about living alongside each other.
Next to the knitting shop is a coffee shop run by Gabriel. The Spirit in Gabriel's coffee shop is different from many shops which would do coffee quick for those heading to work, running through, driving through. There is no running through Gabriel's coffee shop. Gabriel takes his time making the coffee and talks to the customers. There are tables and chairs, and the community gathers there around coffee to talk about living alongside each other.
There is an old word for this living alongside each other in community. That word is Parish. Parish comes from old Greek and means literally dwelling alongside. The early Church picked up the word Parish for good reason.
The Church knows Jesus came to dwell alongside us. John 1.14 says literally He came to pitch his tent among us, talk about family, problem solve community issues, talk about the good and the bad with us. It did not always go easy, his own community tried to kill him, his own people succeeded in killing him outside of Jerusalem. But Christians know he rose from the dead, and gave us his Church as his ongoing presence among us so we could commune with him and each other. Whatever doctrine or practice a church might espouse, Christian churches have at their core this dwelling together, alongside one another. It is in this community, in this Parish, where the Church can proclaim the good news, and walk with those who have troubles, and help those who have needs, and show people just a glimpse of what heaven will be like.
There is a disturbing trend. Churches have a tendency to turn in, to their own, to those just like themselves, competing with other churches, growing at the expense of other churches, maybe even dominating the community around them, rather than thriving in the beautiful variety of parish living. At the same time, perhaps not just coincidentally, the use of the word parish is dying off, seen in print less than half as often as 100 years ago, just a fraction of the frequency of use 200 years ago. As practices die off, so do the words used to name those practices.
But there is hope, on Bellflower Boulevard. When Candace forms a circle to knit, Jesus is there with them knitting away. When Milton stops to talk things over, Jesus gets his two cents into that conversation. When Gabriel shares a drink, or Guillermo sells an appliance, or Stormy makes someone a new dress, or Becky helps a homeless person find a home, or Onnie shows people to their table at Kalaveras, I see Jesus there breaking bread with them, laughing with them, enjoying the company of those alongside whom Jesus lived and still lives, as the church of Jesus still lives and learns again to live into its parish, and learn again to proclaim the good news.
HOW TO PRAY:
Pray that God would bless the restaurants, shops, and other businesses on Bellflower Blvd.
Pray that God would give Bellflower business owners favor
Pray that Bellflower businesses would be successful enough to create additional, new jobs for our neighbors seeking employment
John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
About the Author: Jim Kuiper loves Bellflower. He is a resident and a pastor.