We The Church

Between the Two: A Series-Part 1

Intimidating. It’s a word women hear often. One spoken to them as a weapon, a reason for why they are dismissed, ignored, cut off from deeper relationship. It is spoken as though it were it were a compliment. “You have it together. You are strong, well-spoken, brave.” And yet, it is a compliment that cuts us off at the knees. What it really says is “No one knows what to do with you. You are too much.”

And in light of this statement, a question has been Sunday-strolling through the streets of my mind. Is the issue intimidating women or intimidated men? And does it even matter?

To explore this further, I’d like to invite you into the story of the very first couple. I encourage you to be open to hearing it in a new way. It may not settle well with you at first. It may buck against they way this story plays on repeat throughout the history of your faith. I understand. It is difficult to hear things in a new way. Let’s allow ourselves to struggle through it without simply disregarding the unfamiliar.

Since that dreaded moment in the garden, when Adam and Eve wandered their way to the one tree Adam knew would lead them away from what God offered, men and women have been at odds.

Eve, perhaps not knowing the whole picture having not been created when the warning was given to Adam, saw that wisdom and knowledge was available instantly through the sweet fruit of the tree. Wisdom and knowledge, they would be needed if the newly formed humans were going to fulfill their calling to cultivate and care for creation. Yet, there is a slow wisdom and knowledge, growing like an oak whose roots dig and fight their way through the earth as branches stretch further up and out toward the sun. But no one wants the slow-growing when they can have it now.

And Eve, the Ezer K’enegdo, the military force balance to the incomplete humanity of Adam, took the information she had and formed a strategy. She reached out her hand to the possibility of knowing everything they would need to be the most effective stewards; and Adam, himself knowing the full risk, joined her. They dined on instant gratification and passive hope.

And trust shattered.

A Christmas Eve Prayer: 2016

Good Father,

How glad we are to be here, to have arrived at this moment with You. How grateful we are to have life on this side of the first Christmas.

Over and over throughout history, Your people cried out to You from the darkness of this world and faithfully, You answered. But the darkness wasn’t only happening to them. They carried the darkness in themselves, as we all have.

So, in Your kindness, at just the right time, You broke into the dead of night, sending Your son, Jesus Christ. The Word of God in flesh. The Word that spoke light into creation, now living among creation as the light of the world.   And this darkness-invading baby, came to rescue us, to heal us.

Yet, we confess, Father, that our eyes are trained to see the darkness. Like the shepherds in the field, watching for the wolves who would attack their sheep, we have learned to watch for what we fear. But their night was interrupted by the good news of a baby born in Bethlehem, The Savior. While they watched for intruders who would bring death to their flocks, the world was invaded by You, Jesus, the one who gives life. And while fear attempts to turn our eyes from You over and over, we invite the interruption of Your radiant light.

In this light, weary hearts are met with peace. In this light, fear shrinks away. In this light, we find life. May our eyes learn to watch for the light, for the movement of the Spirit in the midst of this world.

Tonight we gather to celebrate, not only a day that has come and gone 2000 years ago, but the ongoing work of Christ. We celebrate that by You, Holy Spirit, the Light of Christ continues to be born in our lives, pushing back the dark of night. What better reason is there to celebrate?

The Savior has been born, the Light of the World. What good news! The glory of God, which is in the highest of heaven is now also with us!


Justin and Jesus

Dear Justin,

Recently, you stated your love for Jesus in the most gentle way. In my opinion, you came across as a man sure yet struggling with his faith. And that is the most honest statement of faith I know. It is us all. “I believe, help my unbelief.” I don’t know you, not the real you. I only know the media-version of you, and honestly, I didn’t follow your story very closely so I only know bits and pieces of that Justin as well. That being said, it might seem strange when I say, “I am proud of you.” I am. I am proud of you for handing your days back over to Christ and doing the hard work of letting Him shape you. It isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t comfortable. So I am proud of you.

I am also nervous for you. The reality is, you are under the microscope of fame, and the world will not deal kindly with you. There will be those who pick apart your story for the rest of your life. There will be those, that when you fail, which you will as we all do at times, will throw your Jesus-loving-words back in your face. You have said that you are not going to hold in your faith any longer. You are ready to speak what you believe. There are those who will want you to be quiet.

But, it won’t just be “the world” that rips you to shreds. Unfortunately, many christians will as well. You have a past ridden with mistakes. And despite the fact that each of us has our own past, there will be those who will question your love for Jesus. They will scoff at the idea that you would have the audacity to claim to be one of them. They will roll their eyes at your humble words of faith because they are certain you are working the system for publicity’s sake. And Justin, you also have a future in which you will make mistakes. And despite the fact that we all make mistakes nearly daily, there will be christians who do not hesitate to drag you out of the city gates and stone you.

For that, I am so sorry. As a whole, well, perhaps more so the media-version of the church, has never been good at letting Christ on the cross take on the sins of those in the public eye. But it really isn’t up to us.

Justin, it is true that there will be many hard things, unjust scrutiny, perhaps strained relationships, because of your desire to love Jesus and live as He did. But, for as many christians who will throw stones, there will be many more who will cheer you on in your journey. There will be those who will weep with you in your moments of weakness and celebrate with you when the victory of Jesus is evident in your life. There will be those, who though they don’t understand your life or even your approach to faith, will listen and try to hear your heart beyond the noise of the media.

And Justin, you are right in saying that going to church doesn’t make one a christian any more than going to Taco Bell makes one a taco. But I encourage you to find a church. Churches are full of broken people and so churches are messy. But just as you shared about relationships, “Love is a choice, not a feeling.” It is the same with The Church. We are a mess, at times we are arrogant and stubborn and cruel. But there are many times we are compassionate, sacrificial, filled with grace. It is difficult to love The Church, to love a church. I will be the first to raise my hand on that one. I have had many days in this life where I have wanted to be done with Her. But Jesus loves Her. So, while going to church isn’t what makes you a Christian, a life lived for Jesus is much fuller when lived in community with a church.

Justin, this faith-place you have come to. It is good. I believe your words. I hear an honest love and honest struggle in your sharing. Faith is a quest. It is a long road. Keep walking, resting, and leaning on Jesus. He will sustain you.

A fellow-struggler,