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Easter in the Park

I have a friend. For this post, I’ll change his name. Let’s call him John. This is not because this post is will be inflammatory by any stretch. It is simply because I haven’t asked him if I can share this story.

John is born and raised in Detroit. John is in his early 20s. John is on parole and he won’t tell me what for. John is homeless. Though he has family in the area, he can’t live with them. He often stays with friends so he doesn’t have to sleep on the streets. John runs drugs sometimes to make money. As a young, African-American felon on parole in Detroit, this is his only foreseeable option. No, it’s not a good thing to do. But I’d like to see you do something different in his situation.

John is smart. John is witty. John enjoys being the life of the party and revels in the spotlight. John loves reading Psalms and has several memorized. John also enjoys singing. On at least one occasion, John has led others (including myself) to the throne in singing worship at a CommuniD BBQ in Detroit.

The Saturday after last Easter.

I was at the CommuniD BBQ in Detroit. I was sitting with John and we were eating. I asked John if he did anything special for Easter; went to church, had dinner with his family, anything. This is what he told me,
“Well I worked Saturday night (which means he was running drugs). I got off about 8:00 Sunday morning. I knew it was Easter and that’s a really big day for churches. So I figured none of the churches would be here with people in the park. I had a pocket full of cash from working and nothing to do. So I went to the store, bought a loaf of bread, some ham and some mustard. And I came here to the park and made sandwiches for anyone who was here and we just kind of ate together.”

As he told me this, I was more than moved. I was speechless. I was thrilled for him. He was sharing with others as there was need. He was focused on others instead of himself. He was living out the call of Jesus in his life. Yes, he got the money from running drugs. But how many of us make our money from indulging and profiting off of the gluttony or materialism of others? This friend of mine was beginning to take steps in the way of Jesus.

Our conversation went on and was good. I’ve thought about that story and shared that story many times over the last year.

This past Saturday night I was in Charleston, SC. I was talking with a guy in his early 20s who has been dreaming of creating community like elevate Detroit and Micah 6 Community are. He’s never seen anything like what he’s been dreaming about. He’s never heard of it and he’s never heard of anyone else doing it. Needless to say, our conversation was a powerful one. He was thrilled, inspired and excited to learn of others doing similar things to what he’s been feeling called to create. It was inspiring and so encouraging to me to get to be a part of that with him.

I told him the story of my friend John that I shared above. And then I said, “You tell me. Who was more like Jesus that day? We, the church people worshipping God in our buildings with our worship services? Or the homeless drug runner that gave all he had to share what he could with others in need. Where was Jesus that morning?”

Then it hit me. Easter Sunday was right around the corner. And it was about to happen again. “I knew it was Easter and that’s a really big day for churches. So I figured none of the churches would be here with people in the park.”

Ouch.

And where would Jesus be?

Ouch.

And what were my plans for Easter?

Ouch.

So here’s the plan… Let’s not be the same church that worships a homeless man on Easter and neglects the homeless man we claim to be friends with and love.

This is not a CommuniD BBQ on Easter Sunday. This is a worship service at 2nd & Selden. And we need your help.

We will sing songs of worship to our resurrected savior.
We will hear a short Easter message.
We will share communion.
We will share a light lunch.

We need help on Easter Sunday, but we also need help getting ready in the days before. If you’d like to be a part, please call: (313) 444-0463.

For more information, join the event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/241288699301917

— We need chairs. Bring your folding chairs, your lawn chairs and your dining room chairs.
— Lunch will be ham and cheese sandwiches and bottles of water.
— Please don’t bring extra food than that. The focus will be easy to distract from celebrating the resurrection of Christ. And we don’t want that to happen.
— We need people to get together Saturday evening and make the sandwiches ahead of time.
— We need someone who will take pictures and video. Actually, we need a couple people.
— We will need people who will serve communion.
— We may need someone who can lead us in singing worship (waiting to hear back from someone now).

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Pilate

Pilate.

What did Pilate do that was so wrong?

I’ve been wrestling with this question a lot this Lenten/Easter season. I am spending this year reading through the gospels. I use YouVersion and often listen to the passages aloud. In January I read through all four gospels. I spent February focusing on Matthew, reading it over and over. March was similarly spent reading Mark. Now April will be spent reading Luke. And May will be spent with John.

At the beginning of Lent I also started reading YouVersion’s “40 Days of Lent” reading plan. It’s been interesting. As I’ve read through the plans side by side I sometimes end up reading the same chapter a second time in a day. Other times I may read the same passage in parallel gospels in the same day or days apart.

Beginning today I’m also going through “The Story of Easter” reading plan. So now during Holy Week I’m reading three different reading plans all involving the life of Jesus. Two of them focus on Easter and the events leading up to it. And this week I’ll be reading the full gospel of Luke. It’s overlapping reading plans. You get the idea.

You may think (Or I would’ve thought) that the repetition or overlapping nature gets boring. But it has been quite the opposite. Reading like this has been like hearing the same story over and over again from different perspectives and in different orders. I feel like I’m getting a bigger and deeper picture of the characters in the story. Not really repetition at all.

However, I have digressed. Back to my question: What did Pilate do that was so wrong?

Having grown up in the church, I remember hearing the Easter story as a kid. I remember thinking the Jews, Pilate and everyone there was so evil except for Jesus and maybe that guy that carried his cross for him because he was forced to do it.

Over time I’ve learned to place myself amidst the crowd. I’ve pictured myself or understood myself as one of the many voices in the jeering crowd. I’ve spent hours meditating on the thought that it was my sin that nailed him to that cross. And after nailing him there with my sin, it was His love that held him there.

But what about Pilate?

Pilate was still my scapegoat. I was ok with placing myself in the massive crowd; even if it was out of sin. At least I wasn’t the only one chanting for Jesus’s execution, right? As long as it’s not only my voice shouting for his death, that seemed bad, but tolerable. I can handle that.

Pilate’s the one that could’ve really done something though. Pilate didn’t have to listen to us in the crowd. Pilate had the power to set Jesus free and silence the crowd. Pilate could’ve done something, but didn’t. And for that… I’ve always thought of Pilate as the worst one there. It’s one thing to be an ignorant peasant and demand an innocent man’s execution. It’s another thing to be an educated citizen of the most powerful empire in the world and condone the death of the innocent by a lack of action. “Yes,” I thought, “Pilate is the worst one there.”

So what did Pilate do?

Pilate questioned Jesus. (Matthew 27:11, Mark 15:2-4, Luke 23:3, John 18:33-38)
Pilate was amazed at Jesus. (Matthew 27:14, Mark 15:5)
Pilate found Jesus innocent. (Luke 23:4, 23:13-15, John 18:38)
Pilate questioned the Jews and gave them a chance to request Jesus be released. (Matthew 27:17-24, Mark 15:9-14, Luke 23:22, John 18:39)
Pilate had Jesus flogged in an apparent attempt to pacify the Jews. (Matthew 27:26, Mark 15:15, Luke 23:16, 23:22, John 19:1)
Pilate declared Jesus innocent again. (Luke 23:22, John 19:4, 19:6)
Pilate was afraid and questioned Jesus again. (John 19:8-10)
Pilate declares that he has the power to crucify Jesus or to free him. (John 19:10)
Pilate tried to set Jesus free. (Luke 23:20, John 19:12)
Pilate gave in to the crowd and handed him over to be crucified. (Matthew 27:24-26, Mark 15:15, Luke 23:24-25, John 19:16)
Pilate had a sign made declaring Jesus was “The King of the Jews” and had it posted in all three common languages of the time. (John 19:19-20)
Pilate stands firm to his declaration of who Jesus is. (John 19:22)

Here’s what Pilate did: Pilate took the time to learn who Jesus was. Pilate believed and declared Jesus to be innocent and the King of the Jews. In other words, Pilate believed Jesus. Yes. I think we’ll see Pilate in Heaven. But Pilate gave in to the pressuring demands of a sinful society. Pilate did not stand up for the innocent like he could have. But instead, Pilate stood by and allowed the innocent to die.

Now… Who is the worst in this story? Pilate? Or the Jews in the crowd? I still think Pilate.

But I can no longer place myself in the crowd. I am not an ignorant uneducated peasant. I am an educated citizen of the most powerful empire in the world. I am no longer a Jew in this story… I am Pilate. I am Pilate because every day I sit and do nothing. And through my passivity, the innocent are allowed to die. I am Pilate every time I do not do all that I can.

Let’s, as the body of Jesus, stop being Pilate. Let’s stop letting our passivity, apathy and complacency condemn the lives of the innocent. Let us stop killing God’s children with inaction! Do something. Bring your friends along. Do something together. And keep doing it.

http://one.org
http://invisiblechildren.com
http://ijm.org
http://bloodwatermission.com
http://20liters.org
http://thepeaceplan.com
http://70x7outreach.org
http://elevateDetroit.com

This list could go on and on and on. Don’t start tomorrow. Do something now.


November 2011 Newsletter

What a month!! This newsletter’s going to be a bit longer than normal, but we’ll be as brief as we can. PLEASE read it all!

This month:
– Haiti trip
– Intern Cole
– Pontiac
– Thanksgiving
– Chizzy CAM

WE’VE MADE HAITI HAPPEN!
This past Friday (November 4th) we said au revoir to our brave and fearless Haiti crew.
Derick, Amanda, Lindsey and Alex will be returning back to Detroit next Monday at 2:30 in the afternoon with surely a tan (or burn) and many stories and pictures to share.

Stay tuned for future trips next year to Africa, back to Haiti and possibly somewhere stateside. Stay tuned at: www.alittlegracemi.org or e-mail

Cole the Intern from Arkansas…

Check out his autobiographical blog post and the video of his initiation ceremony here: https://elevatedetroit.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/announcing-me-the-new-intern/

Pontiac CommuniD BBQ!?!? Yes!! (click for Facebook launch event)
Thanks to partnerships with Kensington Community Church – Orion Campus, Rochester 1st Assembly of God and Faith Church in Rochester Hills!
Launching November 19th and on the 3rd Saturday of every month after. 1:00pm in Baldwin Park (at the corner of E. Howard St. & Edison St.)
For more info e-mail or call (313) 444-0463.

Thanksgiving:
Many of you were at our Christmas Day sit-down BBQ this past December. Tables and chairs to sit 90 people weren’t nearly enough as we sat around and had a family style meal outside under the beautiful late December sunshine.

We plan to do the same the same this Thanksgiving Day. This time we should have plenty of tables and chairs to go around. We will need lots of help setting up and tearing down before and after the CommuniD BBQ.

Bring lots of hot, cooked food!
For more info e-mail or call (313) 444-0463.

Chizzy CAM… TV and a BBQ
…is an online TV show every Tuesday evening from 8:00-11:00pm. It is filmed and aired live from the uDetroit Café and at http://uDetroitcafe.com. Chizzy is the name of the main host and CAM stands for Charity, Arts and Music.

Tuesday, November 22nd Chizzy CAM will be featuring elevate Detroit and the CommuniD BBQs!

As a part of this feature we plan to have a CommuniD BBQ outside the uDetroit Café. We could use lots of help running and supplying the BBQ that evening. We have NO idea what to expect numbers-wise. So… true to our Spirit-led, organic style… pray about how much to bring and bring that. And we’ll see what the Lord has in store. We need people to arrive at 7:00pm to setup and get things going. I do not expect the BBQ portion to go all the way until 11:00.
For more info e-mail or call (313) 444-0463.

There are lots and lots of other events at various points in the oven. And none of them can happen without all of us working togheter. Please let us know your gifts/strengths and we’d be happy to put you to work!

For more information about elevateDetroit, A Little Grace or the events we’re doing, e-mail mike@elevatedetroit.com or check out the Facebook fan page or our Twitter feed.

Grace and peace,

Mike Schmitt, Amanda Vizzini and the team
(313) 444-0463
mike@elevatedetroit.com
amanda@elevatedetroit.com

Like us:
http://www.facebook.com/elevatedetroit
http://www.facebook.com/alittlegracemi

Follow us:
http://www.twitter.com/elevatedetroit

As Dorothy Day said, “If you have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor.”


Fire, Faith & Loss

This past Saturday I walked down to Robert Redmond Park at 2nd & Selden in Detroit’s Cass Corridor.

I started talking to a man named Ken in front of the park. Ken was walking down Selden with a back pack and a tired expression on his face. I asked how he was doing, and he simply said “I’ve had better days.” I understood that saying well, not knowing the reason behind his response. I inquired in the most sincere way I could convey. Ken went on to share a story I wasn’t expecting. Ken’s apartment and everything he owns in it was lost in a fire just a week ago Friday. He explained that his drunk neighbor had accidentally started a fire in the apartment above him. The ceiling then fell in and set fire to his apartment. Ken said, “I was just concerned about getting outta there.” He grabbed what clothes he could find, a bag and his dog came with him. At this point, I could only nod and apologize for his recent tragedy. I asked where his dog is now. Ken said, “He’s at my friends house, ran away twice now because he’s scared of that place, but he’s ok now.” Ken shared how thankful he was, that his girlfriend wasn’t with him that night, and that he’s safe, that his dog’s safe.

He went on to explain the hassle of contacting shelters and help agency’s around the city looking for help. His frustration in a system that expects him to have his I.D birth certificate or social security card before they will help. This man lost all his material possessions a week ago and needs a roof over his head.

The sympathy in my heart, I could only attempt to convey with body language. I asked him, “Do you see God in any of this, and if so…how?” He paused and replied, “Man faith is all I do have now, literally…I have nothing else but these clothes on my back.” I said “And your dog.” We both laughed. For a man that just lost everything he owns, he sounded…thankful for what little he does have.

I asked if he was hanging around the park for awhile to get something to eat. He said, “Yeah, yeah I plan on it.” Before I left the park I waved and smiled at Ken, and he did the same.

If I were that man, would I say the same? Would I remind myself of the faith I have, or focus on what I lost?

– Alexander Tourtillott


Being Jesus

“Everyone needs compassion. A love that’s never failing.”

I love this song. It’s one of my favorites.

I’ve probably sung it a hundred times. Maybe more.

This is Friday night though. Normally I may sing it on a Sunday. I may sing it on a Wednesday. But I bet this is the first time on a Friday. Certainly the first time the night before a CommuniD BBQ.

Read those two lines again:
“Everyone needs compassion. A love that’s never failing.”

We all do don’t we? I know I certainly do.

Tomorrow, when we each get together at 2nd & Selden, let’s look at each other and everyone we see throughout the day with those eyes.

“Everyone needs compassion. A love that’s never failing.”

The next line says, “Let mercy fall on me.”

Lord, let mercy fall on us. And let us pour it out as an offering to you. Let each of us experience your mercy and unfailing love through each other’s compassion freely shared amongst every one present at 2nd and Selden.

– Post by Mike Schmitt
Twitter: @mikeschmitt
Blog: http://schmittmike.wordpress.com


Newsletter – A Little Grace partnership

elevateDetroit newsletter – CommuniD BBQs, A Little Grace and more

It’s been a long time since we’ve sent out an e-mail newsletter (just over two years in fact!), but we just sent one out. We’re going to start sending them regularly once again. If you’d like to get on our e-mail database, let us know.

Let me introduce you to Amanda Vizzini. Amanda is basically awesome. Basically. Amanda is married to Derick. Derick and Amanda live in Troy. They have a great little boy named Aiden. Amanda has been running a ministry called A Little Grace for a couple years now.

A Little Grace partnered with elevate Detroit and the CommuniD BBQs in September 2010. By November, they were the point people for the 4th Saturday events in Detroit. In December, A Little Grace began Dinner in the D.* In June elevate Detroit began partnering with A Little Grace for Dinner in the D.

After much prayer, thought and wise counsel elevate Detroit and A Little Grace have officially (and legally) merged forces. A Little Grace is what we will continue to call the global side of things (our 1st Haiti trip will take place this November) and elevate Detroit will continue to be local. Together we can do much more for the Kingdom of God than apart.

As elevate Detroit continues to grow, we are continuing to start more CommuniD BBQs as well as beginning to plan other types of community events that connect people to Christ. We are also well under way in laying the groundwork for a three phase fundraising campaign (which will begin this Fall) to open up the Dandelions Café and community house. As things develop and grow, so does the number of people involved.

Amanda and I are now partners in this work. As things progress, you will be receiving e-mails, phone calls and creepy stalker voicemails from Amanda (as well as possibly others) from time to time. I know you all will show her the same crazy love and ridiculous support you’ve shown me as we’ve ventured into this great unknown together.

Thank you so much for your partnership and brotherhood/sisterhood in this work in the Kingdom of God!

Mike Schmitt
mike@elevatedetroit.com
schmittmike.wordpress.com
Twitter: @mikeschmitt

elevate Detroit — Creating Communities that Connect People to Christ.
(313) 444-0463
www.elevateDetroit.com
elevateDetroit.wordpress.com
contact@elevateDetroit.com
Twitter: @elevateDetroit
Facebook: facebook.com/elevateDetroit

A Little Grace
www.alittlegracemi.org (currently under construction)
Facebook: facebook.com/alittlegracemi

Dandelions Café
www.dandelionscafe.com
dandelionscafe@gmail.com
Twitter: @DandelionsCafe
Facebook: facebook.com/dandelionscafe

* The idea of Dinner in the D is similar to CommuniD BBQs. Dinner in the D happens during the week and centers more on a partnership with a specific local church within the city of Detroit. Dinner in the D is on a much smaller scale than the CommuniD BBQs and is easy for a small group to adopt one day a month. For more information on helping make Dinner in the D happen, reply or call Mike or Amanda.


Mack and Outreach Love

I spent this afternoon at the CommuniD BBQ in Detroit. It’s August 13th, 2011. Today’s high is 80°F. Mostly sunny. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Today I met a man named Mack. Scratch that… today I met a friend named Mack. I’ve actually met him many times before, but never remembered his name. After today, I will never forget his name.

Mack is 26 years old. He will turn 27 on October 1st. Mack is African-American. He is probably 5′ 10″ tall; a little heavier than average build. He’s a good size to hug. Mack has a sweetness about him. It’s a childlike innocence. To meet Mack is to like him. To talk with him is to love him. I cannot help, but see Christ in his smile. It’s beautiful. He is beautiful.

Mack is currently homeless. Mack stays in a shelter in Cass Corridor. Mack comes to the CommuniD BBQs just about every week. He has for some time.

Today Mack read me a song he wrote. He has chords written out and everything. The song is called Outreach Love. Mack wrote Outreach Love to describe his experiences at CommuniD BBQs at 2nd & Selden.

I hope to be able to post the lyrics to his song soon. For now, I’ll say two things about it:
1. I was in tears after hearing it.
2. The only line I remember goes something like, “No one looks at me like I’m broken.”

To anyone who may read this… success. If the last four plus years of BBQs through winter and summer alike had no other benefit whatsoever, but to give Mack the experience of being seen by God as not being broken… success. Because in Christ, Mack is made whole. In Christ, I am made whole. In Christ, Mack is not broken. In Christ, I am not broken. In Christ, Mack is healed of his brokenness. In Christ, we are all healed of our brokenness.

God,

Thank you for Christ. Thank you for Mack. Thank you for Christ in Mack. And thank you for Christ in me. Thank you for healing our brokenness through Christ and His body… us.

I hope to post full lyrics to Outreach Love soon.

P.S. Get ready for one SERIOUS birthday party on October 1st.

Mack, Heather, Morgyn and friend last summer (8/7/10)

Written by Mike Schmitt
Twitter: @mikeschmitt