My friend and servant at our local church in Albuquerque - Deacon Shawn Honsberger - wrote this op-ed piece for a Re:Train course assignment last month. We've been in The Resurgence's school of ministry for the past year together, and our most recent assignment was to write an op-ed piece that we might submit to a local newspaper - one which analyzes the culture of our city in the light of the gospel, and the way that Jesus' church within that city is to make its welfare our own. This is a fantastic cultural hermeneutic of Albuquerque, and if you live here or plan to visit, take notes for good spots with good food and good beer and good hangs with good folks.
I've often heard our culture sing it's praises. We are the Land of Enchantment. We are the cultural landmark of the American Southwest. We are the home of the Zia, the Navajo, the Hispanic, and the Spaniard. We are the cultural current and hub that links Hollywood with history. We draw people of multiple communities from Washington,
California, Colorado, Europe, and beyond. We wear our culture on our flag, our art, our skin, and we wear it well. We are Albuquerque, New Mexico - and we won't let you forget it.
We're no strangers here to bloody war, inquisition, sour economic downturns, armies of fatherless children, gangs, porn, addiction, assault, murder, sex trade, government sequestering, drunkenness, and the dreaded 'Death Spiral.' Yet it seems our committed resolve will carry us through. Our liturgy and legacy is loud and proud. You won't find us backing down in defense for our beloved Lobos, The International Balloon Fiesta, MMA, The State Fair, 'Sh*t Burquenos Say,' New Mexican cuisine, or a good local beer. These things are all part of what reenforces and defines the deepest source of meaning in our lives - our identity as a people. We're happy with who we are here, and we have the visible and visceral scars to prove it. You won't find our women losing any battles, unless that battle is with crippling disappointment and loneliness. You won't find our men backing down from any fight, unless that fight is to get off the couch for a job or maintain any rightful manly or domestic responsibility.
We've raised our freak flag high on the world's stage and embroidered it with the message "Look here, look at me!" We've made our battle cry clear. However through the myriad of opponents we face, we've yet to face our single greatest opponent - ourselves. For all our proclamations, we don't know who are are. We trust that our culture, causes, catharsis, confessions, and celebrations will get us through it. Perhaps we should embroider the flag with "We don't have a clue! Let's be honest."
Breaking Bad News: we won't come out on top. Our gospel is broken, bankrupt, and hopeless.
Here's the good news: the very God who created culture is on a mission in our city. Jesus is on a mission to seek and save the lost. He invites you to a different Gospel; in which all of the broken-ness, sin, and death that our culture creates was healed, forgiven, cleansed, and defeated at the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Conqueror. The Son of God died in our place for our sin, and gifted us with his righteousness and love instead. Three days later Jesus rose from death, defeating sin, death, and our mutual enemy Satan. God entered his history as the man Jesus to love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable, adopt the fatherless, heal the spiritually sick, and bless the cursed. He rules and reigns as King over all. Give your sin to Jesus, repent and believe.
We are currently in the midst of a storm. The mission that God accomplished in Christ creates an unbreakable and unstoppable community. The church. Every week at Mars Hill Albuquerque, our fellow Burquenos are being forgiven, saved, and reconciled to God and each other through saving faith in Jesus. They are living life together every week in different rhythms in homes, restaurants, and bars as Community Groups that present the love of God. They are sharing the grace of God and a La Cumbre IPA. They love their families and their children. They are joyfully living, stewarding, and leading their homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods as disciples of Jesus in our great city. What makes them different than any of us? They are saints, saved by grace. That very grace is extended to all of us. We, who are called Christians have been called out of darkness into God's marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9) by the resurrected Jesus himself. We are part of a replicating virus that will infect our city with the love and grace of God, and there is nothing that can be done to stop it.
As great and as broad as our culture is, we still need Jesus. Let's have a conversation about it. Let's order a burrito at Sadie's with red & green and hang out. Let's get some fry bread at Jemez and watch the purple sunset. Let's get a pizza at Giovanni's without getting shot. Let's get a pint at Two Fool's. Let's take our kids to the park. Let's raise a glass and talk about our city. Let's share a pool table or take in a day at the zoo. Let's discuss whether we prefer The New York Times or The Albuquerque Journal. Katy Perry or Demi Lovato? Matt Groening or Mike Judge? Corey Feldman or Neil Patrick Harris? Lawrence Taylor or Ronnie Lott? Pop-Rocks or Blue Ice Candy? Coldplay or The Shins? Freddy Mercury or Tony Vincent? You get the juxtaposition. We can even lament together about a certain basketball coach - yes a coach, leaving our team for more money. Apparently we're all about scandal now. The point is, let's not get all hurt. We can just get to know each other. I know you love it here. Or maybe you hate it here. Jesus loves Albuquerque, and so do we. I hope we can love and serve her together.
Come to Mars Hill Church and see Jesus for who he really is, and yourselves for who you really are. Be counted amongst us. Come take part in what God is doing with us. Okay, at least come have a beer at a Community Group in your neighborhood. You don't have to stay long. We're not that weird, we promise.
Written by Shawn Honsberger