Sunday, September 11, 2011

What is Our Job, Exactly? (Or, What Are You Doing Here??)

We... "THE CHURCH". Not just our congregation, or our denomination, but all those folks out there who claim Christianity as their faith. The entire family of Christ. What is it we are supposed to be doing in the world? Are we supposed to be converting people? Proselytizing all the sinners? Aren't we all sinners? Are we supposed to be judging others? Condemning others? Praying? Praising? Hiding behind our stained glass and stone walls? Delivering a message through actions that speak louder than words?? Serving? Saving? Perhaps like Elijah, we need to hear God speaking those words, "What Are You Doing Here?" We Protestants tend to particularly love Micah 6:8 "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Okay, that's easy, right? But then what???

Tonight I happened to be at church trying to make things look presentable and welcoming while finishing up some Sunday School preparations when the phone rang. My friend had just recently headed home. Without giving it much thought, I answered. I just tend to assume that when the phone rings at 8:30 on a Saturday night, it's probably someone looking for somebody. In point of fact, I still think that is what this call was.... just... this time it wasn't one of our members looking for some other member. It was a stranger, looking for someone to listen. A young man with a troubled past, and a troubled present. Someone who was only 21, a veteran, and already struggling with enough demons for a lifetime. I don't need to share the details here, suffice it to say he was looking for a place to get answers. He was searching for someone to listen to him. He was pretty sure that he was damned for things he had done in service, and maybe elsewhere in his life. He just needed to talk. He talked for almost an hour. He certainly said some things I didn't agree with socially, theologically, politically. That doesn't really matter though. Throughout the call, he didn't ask for anything for himself, despite sharing a long list of personal tragedies that would make your toes curl. He asked for one thing: Prayers for his brother. Not money, not help for any of his troubles. He asked, very politely, with his soft drawl... "Would your church pray for my brother? He's going through some hard times."

And of all the things he said, the one that probably haunts me the most is this; he said he'd called other churches who sent him away. That he worships at home because his appearance isn't 'for church' because of his clothes or his tattoos or his piercings. That he'd never felt 'invited' into church. So, wait. What? WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE???

Matt 25:35-40
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Normally there wouldn't have been anyone there to answer the phone at that time. I just happened to be there, worried about whether we were tidy enough to be 'welcoming' (Yes, that word again. It's important.) I was concerned about appearances. (What are you DOING here??)

Our God who is big enough to create the universe, who can hear all of our hurts and worries and sins and joys and triumphs... a God who would take the time to carefully craft the brilliant iridescence of a small green beetle, can love us and heal us in ways we can't begin to hope for... THAT God must have caused me to connect with this young man, the Holy Spirit must have moved to bring us together, if only for an hour over the phone. I pray then, that the same God gave me the right words to say to him, that he would know that he was welcome with us, in the family of Christ, at His table, at our worship services, in God's house.

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Heb 13:2)

God NEVER, EVER gives up on us! What do you say to this stranger then, but 'Come, you are welcome.'?

What are YOU doing here?? Listen; I think God is still speaking...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fear and Loathing in Church Council

Let's say that there was something that could happen... something you'd experienced before that was challenging, difficult or scary... something you knew had the potential to happen again, but which you prayed and hoped would not.

And then it didn't.

Like a devastating storm bearing down on your house that suddenly lifts and dissipates on a gentle breeze. It doesn't mean that another storm will never come your way, but this one, THIS storm passed, and nothing bad happened. What would you do? Would you shout for joy? Would you say "Amen" or "Thank you Jesus!" or "Praise God!"? or ANYthing that shows a grateful heart for the faithfulness of God??? And if you did all those things and someone told you not to get excited, what would be your response?

WHY ARE WE NOT EXCITED??? When something isn't going well, we ask God WHY, and to help us, and when something goes right, we question it... something quantifiable must have transpired to CAUSE this. We look for numbers, for data, for reasons why the bad thing didn't occur, looking to make sure that it isn't still lurking in the closet waiting to surprise us with some kind of horrific terror. We look for ways to credit ourselves and debunk any action that might be considered divine. We ask God for help every day, and when we receive it, invest far more energy in downplaying the goodness of it and trying to find the error, than in thanking our merciful Creator for life-affirming moments of faithfulness in action.

God is Good, All the Time; All the Time, God is Good.

When we bring fear to the table, then we begin to loathe, instead of love, the work of Christ's church. Fear divides and faith unites. God has a love enormous enough for all of us, if we hear it, and live it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Thank you, church family for being there for me. I really love being a part of this family. I am excited for all the new things to come. I'm inspired by your creativity. I am humbled by your dedication. I am uplifted by your laughter. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wisdom, Old and New.

My grandmother used to say to us “Have I told you lately that I love you? Because I do.” I've been thinking about how important that was. And still is. Grandma heartily, and sometimes very plainly disapproved of things that we did when we were small... and when we were grown. I suppose though, there's a lot more room to understand the context of that disapproval when it comes from someone who loves you, and always did, from before you were born til she stepped off this mortal coil. And who took the time to tell you so regularly, both with clearly understood actions and plain words. What a gift we can give to children! Has it ever been said that a child was hugged too much? Too often told that they were precious and loved? What is the worst that could come of that? My son a few months ago remarked of a baby he had never met, the child of a person he had never met, but upon who's picture we were looking “She is important to somebody.” I want that sensitivity to the gentle spirit that dwells within each of us to always, ALWAYS be a part of the way he looks at the world. I fail at it often myself, so I don't know if I will be the best teacher. Maybe I'll just have to learn this from him instead. Perhaps the best I will be able to do is love him, and hug him and tell him every day that he is precious to me. In plain words tell him when I approve and when I disapprove. Practice forgiveness he can see, and hope that it is enough to flourish the gentle spirit in him that recognizes already the value of another child of God.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dreams, and Goals, and Resolutions, Oh My!

Just a short post... Everyone is still so fresh and resolution-y right now... I just want to ask... How will this year be different?? If I start with myself, and move out in faith, how will my 2010 be different and better than the year before?

Makes me think of one of my all time favorite quotations:
"The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands,
and then work outward from there."
— Robert M. Pirsig

In what ways do you hope to grow and change as a person of faith in the next year? How do you resolve to start that work in your own heart, head and hands?

In what ways do you want to see our church community do the same?
How do you begin to move outward with your faith?

What do you resolve to do differently, better or more of in your faith year?
How can we improve the world by improving on ourselves?

These are to me, frighteningly elementary, and simultaneously grandiose questions.
I'm looking forward to your answers and thoughts, dreams and hopes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

You know what? I felt the love tonight. I'm ready to work past the pain and grow in faith. Conflict and despair can jump start harmony and dedication and not always lead to decay. Not no, but how. Not who's gonna do it but what can I do. Moving on, looking forward, listening and looking to God. I am overflowing with joy sharing a meal with the brothers and sisters of my church family and am in awe of their talents. You are all a blessing to me!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thought For The Day

"When you come to the edge of all the light that you know, And you are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, Faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly." - Barbara J. Winter