And so, Clarence and Martin set about making Koinonia habitable for their families and began the hard work of farming.
Not long after they’d moved in, they got their first visit from the KKK, folks who were upset that Clarence and Martin were sharing meals with the African American man they’d hired to work for them. In a tense stand-off, Clarence responded with customary humor. By means of that humor, he made a connection with his complainant and defused the situation.
Humor notwithstanding, Clarence and Martin were afraid. The KKK was no organization to mess with. I was struck by Clarence’s comments regarding their fear: “It was not a question of whether or not we were to be scared…but whether or not we would be obedient.” “It scared hell out of us, but the althernative was to not do it, and that scared us more.” (38, 39)
It’s that total commitment to God’s work–with every fiber of your being, every cell in your body–that so characterized Clarence….and that I’m not yet sure I’ve made. TOTAL commitment, that’s hard. Especially when the bad guys are breathing down your neck.
In a post a couple of months ago, I talked about starting to work my way through the Spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. Swept up in the Koinonia stuff, I haven’t kept up with posts about the Exercises.
But this week, the two are intersecting. The basic journey of the Exercises in the first nine weeks was this–Feeling God’s love, acknowledging my defenses against that love (sin), and accepting God’s love even in my sinfulness (or inability to receive God’s love into my depths).
This week, the invitation in the Exercises is to hear God’s call–this One who loves me completely–to work with God in the world. Now, I’m all about working with God in the world. I’ve been preaching that forever. The difference with the invitation from the Exercises is that I don’t work with God in the world because “that’s what Christians do.” I work with God in the world because God loves me and, out of that love, invites me to work alongside. Working for justice is not simply another thing to do, just one more religious activity designed to get the God of guilt off our backs. No, working for justice in the world is something we do because God loves us and because the only loving response to that love is to join God in God’s work in the world. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a subtle shift…but, for me, it’s a big one.
Two other fun things about ch.3…Clarence’s creativity with the farming–climbing on the roof each morning to see what other farmers were doing, starting a “crop” of chickens, the mobile peanut harvester, the cow library… and the way he began to draw young, idealistic followers of Jesus to Koinonia. The more I read about Clarence, the more I want to meet him. This was one impassioned, faithful, creative, and charismatic man. What possibly could come next?