Within church architecture one can quickly determine what a particular congregation’s theology and community was like when the building was built. For many urban congregations like ours, the building was built as a community was growing and people were moving from a more rural living setting to an urban one. Growing up with the community made for distinct advantages to congregations like ours including making the churches often double as community centers.
However, in the 1920’s another movement was at its height; we know these groups as “societies” and para-church organizations. At the building of this church this movement was in it's heyday; partly because women were still not accepted in work places, many went to “work” with various societies and clubs which both furthered the community and had big impacts on the churches. We know the remnant of these societies on the religious side like the American Bible Society and the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and secularly in the American Red Cross, among others. The purpose of these organizations, both secular and religious, was to make the communities and the world a better place.
Basically, the idea was that if we work on our communities, helping out our neighbor, we make our own lives stronger and more complete. It is the idea that when you are stronger individually, everyone is stronger. However, unlike the contemporary mindset of "what do I get out of it?" this was not selfish or self-serving, just a simple observation that if my neighbor is stronger, everyone is stronger, if my neighbor suffers, everyone suffers.
So the social societies came about to address those issues and with educated women who were looking to make a difference, these societies became their jobs. In the 20's and 30's it would not have been odd to see a great deal of activity at churches, both with internal societies and external ones, so often the buildings were built with meeting spaces, social spaces, and dedicated worship spaces.
As times changed post World War 2 and every decade thereafter brought more women into the workforce, the volunteers and societies began to diminish, and by the late seventies the churches which were once bristling with daily activity became empty during most weeks, and many of the groups churches relied on to make the church be a community center disappeared. For many churches, they could not adjust to the change of the world, and over the past three decades have seen a decline, as have many of the societies that help to strengthen the church.
Unfortunately, many churches did not deal with this change well. Emphasis was placed more on the internal community and worship than reaching out to the needs of the greater community and their worship needs. This change also feted the role of pastor which with the decline of volunteers, the position changed from teacher and theologian in resident to CEO and surrogate for all care ministries of the church. Another fundamental change!
The problem with all of this is that whether in architecture, or service, or position, most of the change that the church (that is the global church) has had to face over the years is neither intentional nor even at times thought through; it is merely a forced response to an ever changing world.
The problem that has created in the modern church is that because we have not been intentional and often do not know why we do what we do, we cannot be bold in our community because we lack foundation. This can be seen most vividly in some of the contemporary architecture where churches are often designed more as warehouses or lecture halls to fill rather then sacred spaces, usually the reason given being more about filling with people versus glorifying God! The deeper problem is that when the world changed and the volunteer force changed, instead of thinking and being intentional about the needs of the community, the church continued, and by the 90's and 2000's many would argue, mainline protestantism became irrelevant because it became disconnected with the community because the community changed. While churches changed, they did so often without thought and even more often being somewhat self-serving. Personally I think that while churches like ours were intentionally built to be a community anchor, many forgot that along the way, and through their own self-righteousness, placed themselves above and outside the area they were called to be in, no longer asking themselves why they were doing what they were doing and if they were serving any needs.
Having been in ministry of some type over the last 20+ years, I recognize now more than ever how the lack of intentionality destroys the message of God. It causes many churches to spin their wheels, and often it is the cause for burnout and conflict in the church. It also causes many churches to make bad decisions. During the Lenten Soup Suppers were are seeing examples of people who made and continue to make decisions to be intentional about how they live their lives. Not acting for money, or even security, but making choices based on their faith and the desire to do what is right.
Saul had a problem; he was a little too into himself. As the first King of the Hebrews, Saul took advantage of his situation, making laws and ruling his people often for his own gain. This did not please God!
But let’s step back for a moment. If you remember, before Saul was picked and anointed, the people had a system that centered on God’s use of judges, who like our current judges would rule and make decisions on behalf of God. They did not like that system and wanted to be contemporary to the other kingdoms and have a king, so they petitioned God and God brought them Saul.
Does God make mistakes? Well, it is hard to see Saul and not think that God had not make a mistake, but here in appointing Saul, Saul was able to prepare the way for David, that had someone like David been appointed first, David would not have been able to unite the kingdom and have the political strength he had. But this story picks up soon after God tells Samuel that Saul is no longer to be king.
Samuel is not really pleased with that choice; actually, that always surprises me a little. I figured, knowing what Saul is doing that Samuel would be happy, but God knows where this is going and sets Samuel out to find the new king. Samuel’s expectation is to find someone that would be strong looking, but God speaks to Samuel, reminding him that looks are not everything.
After examining all of David’s brothers and not finding a suitable one, he asks Jesse if there might be another, and they summon the runt, the smallest boy in the family. To everyone’s surprise, God knew this was the one.
This whole story is interesting on many accounts. First, how far ahead God works. Before Saul really goes down into the depths of his power and diversion from God, God already knows how this will end up and seeks to find and train another. Second, how God can see through the initial appearance of someone and see the potential that even someone’s own family cannot see.
This is interesting, because this story gives us a glimpse into the fact that God works in many times simultaneously. People throughout all of history tend to forget this, but God is concerned about the whole world and works not only in the now, but is preparing for what will come in the future. Just as many would not see the depths that Saul would fall nor could they see the glory that would come under David, but God could. For us it becomes a witness of trust. Trusting that God is working in our best interest and doing what needs to be done, not just for now but forever.
It is interesting; looking at Samuel in this passage and seeing his disbelief, even his challenge of God when he is told, but also how in time throughout the rest of the book we see Samuel come to understand the decision. It teaches us that sometimes we may not know why God is calling us to do things, we may not know how God is working, but we can always be assured that God is doing something, and through our faith and trust in God we can begin to see incredible things happen.
I love the ending of Romans, and it fits with the group we are profiling, maybe one of the most diverse groups: “the Middle Class Melting Pot: Progressive Potpourri.” This is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural group, economically diverse group. The difficulty when you have a group like this within the community is that the mix of backgrounds, morals, and social context often causes dissention, fighting, and societal breakdowns. However, within this group, what keeps this from happening is an awareness and acceptance of themselves, and the needs of the greater community, keeping a balance of being authentic to themselves, while being a productive member of the community.
In the closing of the letter to the Romans, specifically Romans 16:17-23, Paul gives his final recitation to the follower which is focused on a strong admonishment against those who purposefully cause dissention and have no desire to work towards the betterment of the faith. What Paul recognizes and knows is that when people cause dissention or what we would call today conflict, often the reason is power, money, self-esteem, etc. but in the end is rarely serving God.
Actually, when looking at the Greek, the tie between those who purposely cause dissention and Satan is unmistakable. But that makes sense, since much of Paul’s writing gives us an understanding that Satan is not necessarily a “boogie man” that lurks around tempting us; rather, it is a pure evil that is within us, and all of society, that causes people to fall away from God. However, we have something stronger that can pull us back and away from that which is wrong and evil to that which is good, and we have to rely on seeking what is right and good.
In other places in Paul’s writings he lays out that one can discern who is speaking for God and who is not by assessing the message that they give. Are they trying to build up the community or are they trying to tear it down? Are they obviously seeking to serve their own needs or are they working for a deeper purpose? Are they building each other up or are they tearing each other down? These are central to the question of community.
My senior year of high school I was on what was probably the worst wrestling team our school had assembled in years. It was not that we were bad, but there were too many holes in our lineup to allow us to win. In sports, one might call it a rebuilding year! But as bad as we were, it was one of the best experiences of my life! Each day we came in, never pointing out each others weaknesses, but working to accentuate each of our strengths. Through the season we saw growth, and more wins, but more importantly, we forged something that while other teams saw mild support of their teammates, especially at tournaments, our team was always present supporting and giving that us that special edge! For me, that was one of the most incredible witnesses to community because, even though it was an individual sport, we modeled community and being a whole.
Here the crux of the message that Paul gives is that there is a greater truth than what we know and in order to understand it we need others. When we are working merely for ourselves, we lose sight of the greater goals and miss out on a full life because everything tends to be about us. However, when we lay aside all of our self determination, look around us, and absorb the Holy Spirit, we find ways to connect and be free to serve and seek the Lord, with the community around to support and help us grow.
One thing that we often forget about the early Christians is that the very thing that strengthened the community is also the thing that put it the most at risk. That thing is the coming together for worship. Now we know that the worship they practiced is nothing like any contemporary or even "traditional" worship in the modern church. While different, it was the assembly of the various individuals that made the witness to Christ, and ultimately the faith to grow and spread.
Often in our current society, we have an approach to faith that says, I can be spiritual but not religious. As if spirituality was an individual endeavor. The problem is that while faith may be individual, the practice and growth of faith cannot be. It is quite simple in that when we only practice a faith of ourselves we begin to fall into a dark path of practicing something that ultimately becomes somewhat narcissistic; in other words, a spirituality without community almost always results in an individual’s worship of themselves. Think about it for a second, isn't a definition of narcissism living for one’s self?
The community makes all the difference for the Christian witness, because it is in the community where we begin to grow and, more importantly, are called out when maybe our theology might have gone a bit beyond the words to describe God and become more about this world and one’s current situation. The difference from a feel-good spirituality and the church is the fact that as the church we live with one eye focused on this world and another eye on the next.
This has its positives and it has its negatives. Now before you read on, do a little experiment. Close your left eye and keep it closed. Take your right hand next to your right ear and slowly move it in front of your face, stop when you see your hand, and open your eye and notice where it actually is, then repeat on the other side.
Now if you are like most people you will notice that one eye has better periphery vision than the other. More importantly, you will recognize that both of your eyes see things just a little differently. Now think about how we see with one eye focused in this world and one in the next. From our vantage point, when not thinking about it, we clearly see a picture, but we often forget that we can only see in part. Thus, we need others to help us to see fully.
Hence, the need for community. Because we need the community to make up for both what we cannot see in the divine, but also what we cannot see in this world. Think for a second about magic. As a kid I loved a good magic show. Most of magic is about tricking the eye into seeing, or not seeing what the presenter wants you to see. It plays off of a truth that our eyes and focus cannot take everything in and we are always focused in one direction over another. Now in a magic show, everyone’s attention is singularly focused, but in a healthy church that focus is diverse and dispersed.
This means that most people in the church come to the church with a different view of spirituality and God. This also means that we have disagreements and struggles, because we are not always going to see things the same way, but then again, how is that going to happen when our views are always so different? And there is the very reason we need community, so that we can see an even clearer vision of what it means to be a Christian through the common witness of everyone in the community.
At the beginning of the article I mentioned that the assembly of the community is what brought the Christians the most risk. That is because it brought both attention and visibility, even as secret as they tried to make it, we know from accounts that often these meetings led to martyrdom. But it is that community that gathered that allowed the community to witness to each other and grow in faith. Moreover, it is that corporate witness which allowed people to connect, challenge each other, and ultimately grow in vibrancy, and the early Christians to spread the message of Christ to the world in Need.
The simple answer is because we are children. It is hard for us to think that our members who range from 6 months to 101 are all equally children, but we are and are in a perpetual relationship with God where we are testing our boundaries and challenging God, in a very similar way to how teenagers test their parents.
In the passage we have this Sunday, we see Moses perform the miracle of getting water from a rock. This is an interesting little story whose significance is often lost in the miracle that is performed. In short, the people are thirsty, they complain, Moses is at a loss and goes to God, God gives provision for a miracle and Moses produces water. Pretty straightforward, right? I used to think so, especially since this was the way the story was always taught to me.
The problem was that the emphasis was on the miracle and not the people. We know the story that proceeds. Had the people not left Egypt, a mass genocide was about to happen. God, through Moses, made provisions so that the people could be saved and brought them to the desert. Now the people were understandably frustrated since the journey was taking far longer than anyone would have expected, and the people began to wonder if they had really made the right choice. This is a theme of the exodus.
But there is more to this story than just an unhappy group that wants fresh water; when you look at the psychology that is going on, the underlying question the people have is whether or not God is still with them, or even if there is a God at all. So they challenge Moses to give a sign that God is still there.
In the modern world we do this often, since even the most seemingly easy life has its difficult times. When we are stuck in our journeys where we can neither see the truth of the beginning, nor the completeness of the end, it is hard to see God, because we are so focused on just getting by, and often we feel alone. So we do what we know best and test God.
Sometimes we test God in silly ways and other times we ask God for the miracles. For some these tests work out and for others these tests don’t and go to drive them further from God. The problem about testing God is that the test by its nature is a statement of unfaithfulness, because we neither trust nor respect that God is there. Moreover, when we test God we also often do so without taking time to look around and witness to the various ways in which God is active in the world, often because we are so overwhelmed by ourselves that we become lost to our own way.
All this being said, the answer to the question about why we test God is because it is part of who we are. Like I said in the pastor’s letter, we only see things in part. And since there are a lot of times when we cannot see God, when we need God, we long for that unmistakable shining sign, not the subtle one that is always there but hard to see.
Race plays a significant role within the scripture. Throughout the Hebrew testament the Hebrew people, from the time of Abraham, well, actually Adam, establish a genetic lineage that the people can trace their ancestry back to Abraham. It is interesting because even those who were outside the faith, when they adopted the Hebrew God were found to have and be connected back to Abraham in some way. Racial purity for the Hebrew people was central for many reasons.
First, it had to do with safety and survival. That is a logical given. You know and can trust people that are kin. Well, at least even if you cannot trust them outright you know their tendencies!
The second, and more important in a religious context, is that there was a belief that when one dies their soul remains alive as long as they are remembered, but once they die those who have died cease to exist. This is a little different than our understanding of heaven and an afterlife, but this ancestor worship places a lot of importance on being able to know and trace one’s genealogy.
The third, though you could probably point to a myriad of other reasons, is related to the first and that is the purity within the faith. This is that by keeping a racial purity the people could keep a spiritual purity. We see this in the New Testament when the Samaritan people are highlighted. The Samaritans are considered to be unclean, because while having a connected history to the Hebrews, they did not follow the same traditions, and most likely were mixed racially.
So racial purity was taught and followed by the Hebrew people, and it was ingrained into their understanding of themselves, God, and their role as a chosen people. The problem, though, was that this racially pure group, according to Christ, was focused in the wrong ways more on keeping the laws and fighting for isolation and purity, over accepting the world they were in and focusing on God.
Toward the end of Romans, Paul reminds his communities that with the coming of Christ also came the abolishment of the separation of one community over another and the subsequent ability of one community to claim superiority over another is antithetical to the witness of Christ. This was a real problem for the early church because the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians often did not accept each other equally. In fact, there were tons of fights about the issue, which we see played out within the letters of the New Testament.
Often we do not think about this, especially within the American “melting pot.” But when we think about it, and look around our communities, we often see how we place a great emphasis on ethnicity and the separation thereof. Moreover, we often see how individual groups, whether ethnic, religious, social, or economic, use a position of power over the rest of the community. The problem is that while we can think of reasons why this might be good, often those reasons are far more about our own survival or even salvation than they are about God and our faithful priorities. While this does not mean that we ignore or discount someone’s group, it is important that we name it, learn about it, and work to see how we can overcome the barriers that get in the way of being a faithful community.
Many of you know that I do Yoga. There are many reasons I do yoga, mainly health, but focus, spirituality, and other reasons as well, but one thing I have realized is that I cannot do yoga alone. I was thinking about that the other day. I have tried to do my own routines, even used computer and IPhone apps to no avail, but something is missing. What I realized, especially after some conversations I had with various people over the past week, is that I need to have community to make it enjoyable.
When I think about a lot of the things in my life, I realize that though I have always been drawn to very individualistic sports and activities, (Biking, wrestling, golf, weightlifting, and so on) what makes them enjoyable is the community that is built around those sports. The interesting thing that I notice is that when I do any of those sports alone, I really don’t do my best, but when I am with others, I always come away feeling like I have really done something special.
I see this a lot in the church and the greater community. There are a couple very interesting trends that are starting to form in the Bay Area and nationally. Call it a response to the virtual world or people needing a break from technology, but young adults, those post college to mid-forties, are seeking intentional communities. Whether that is like the supper clubs that many of our older members will remember from the 60’s and 70’s, or gaming groups, the trend is that people, especially young adults, are actively seeking community.
OK, now here is the real controversial statement: the church is often missing the mark in connecting with this group of seekers because we are trying too hard to attract them. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but if you think about it, the logic is there. You see, after ten years of MySpace, then Facebook, twitter, pinterest, and so on, people are longing for “real” relationships, recognizing that as nice as it is to connect with everyone you ever knew, what happens in those arenas are superficial at best and leave many feeling somewhat empty. What churches often do, though is they ask the question, “what can we do to attract new people” rather than “how can we connect with our neighbors.”
When people are looking for relationships, they may care about music, worship, and other things churches value, but they are often not the deciding factor, it is how they can connect and grow. I often talk to a couple of my friends who happen to live fairly far away. A fairly progressive couple, who love traditional worship and a high liturgy, joined and attend an evangelical church with praise bands and everything else. Every time we talk they complain about how much they hate the services and the “moronic” preaching of the pastor, as they put it. So when I ask them why they go, they flatly say that it is because that is where their friends are.
Interestingly, when I spoke to them about what initially brought them to the church, it was a simple invite to a potluck on a night that they did not have anything else. There was no sales pitch, no one even asked them to come to church, people just were friendly, and despite a difference in theological understandings with the church they found a great deal of agreement with their new friends. Over the years because of the relationships they found ways to be better Christians, better spouses, and, in their words, better people because they were able to connect.
Back in post WWII America the Presbyterian Church founded a group that was called the Mariners. There was a chapter at Westminster. As America took off in the post war booms, work life and urbanization (moving away from immediate families to cities and suburbia) pulled people into a singular work mindset and left many young adults and families without community. The church recognized this and stepped in with a program that was simply focused on connecting people and developing relationships, because we knew that Faith can never really develop unless we have others to help along the way.
Unfortunately, many of these Mariners groups fizzled out because they became static and no longer focused on connecting with new people. Saying that, the underlying success of many congregations in their hay-days can be traced to those programs. The interesting thing about the Mariners was that it was not as much about attracting people to join the church as it was about creating intentional community.
When we think about our church we recognize that when we are working towards intentional community, setting aside gimmicks and formulas, this and that, we see how people come together, get stronger, and I often see that it is at that point where people really open up and begin to grow in their faith and connection with God, at the point where we admit that we need others in our journey.
Depending on the tradition you were raised in there is often an emphasis on either righteousness or justification in relation to how we understand salvation. I know these are big words and scary concepts to most, but in reality both justification and righteousness are fairly simple, and like most things we make them far more complicated then they need to be.
In the reformed protestant movement righteousness and justification are seen as two sides of the same coin. One might simplify it to say that because we have been justified we have been made right and we have been saved. But many will raise various objections to this concept because they want to bring thing up like works or actions we must take in order to be made right with Christ. But in introducing righteousness, Paul gives us an example in Abraham that shows us that God justifies him through his faith, not his works, though not disparaging the works. Unfortunately, this debate often gets in the way of understanding on a deeper level what we need to understand about righteousness.
Being central to understanding of justification and righteousness is understanding right relationships with God and each other. According to Donald McKim, in the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms,Righteousness:
Biblically the term embraces a number of dimensions relating to God’s actions in establishing and maintaining right relationships. Ethically it is a state of moral purity or doing that which is right.
Interestingly, we can think of many examples of how stubbornness and preference have kept people from having good relationships. In fact, sometimes in the pursuit of relationships we find that we fall and drift from God. I often find this to be the case when I try one of the “spirituality things.” I am not knocking them, because they are a very useful tool for many, but for me it does not do anything; I often get bored and mind goes off to other things. Though I do not turn from God, that time where I could be connecting, I just don’t. Again, I think those are great people for who they work for, but I know in my relationship with God, I do not need to prove anything to anyone else because what is right is the relationship I have with God.
This is where we recognize the gift of Justification comes through our faith and not our works. Through faith alone we are justified through Christ (a reformed slogan). This means that through Christ’s Grace he Remits our sins, absolves from guilt and punishment, so that we may receive favor, and be pronounced just (paraphrased from 5.106). In other words, only through Christ can we really be made whole. Moreover, there is something more about justification and righteousness that we often overlook and that is probably the most important part, that this whole thing is ultimately about right relationships.
You see, if we spent our lifetime focusing on being perfect, we are left in the unfortunate situation where we do not have the ability to Celebrate Christ, God, or even have full relationships with each other because we are far more focused on ourselves and our own ways rather than God.
Early in my ministry, while working as a chaplain, I was called to a room where a person was dying. By the time I got there, the man’s pastor was already there, but since I did not have anything else to do at the moment I stayed to watch and see how others did ministry. It was interesting and very uncomfortable as the pastor gave the equivalent to a hellfire and brimstone sermon at the bedside. From calling the man a sinner to the images of hell this guy painted, I was almost in tears; the man’s wife definitely was. After the pastor left, I introduced myself, and the man’s wife just grabbed me, hugged me, and started crying. Here the man was dying, and the pastor made it sound as if it were happening because of God’s retribution of the man’s unfaithfulness. I was appalled, and ended up sitting with the woman for a long time as she calmed down. Though the man died the next day, their pastor was not invited back.
It is interesting how in so many traditions blame and judgment are the guiding principles for the exercise of faith. Lines like “if you only believed strong enough” or “God must like you” always get to me. I think about it in my own life; I am alive today because of a string of decisions and circumstances (including the draft during the Vietnam War) that started before I was ever born. That is another story, but to think that God either caused my afflictions or saved me from them is to miss the point altogether. Whether I live or die in this world, the only thing that really matters is that I am always alive in God.
As we continue with the final sermon in the Letter to the Romans, we see that Paul is imploring people to learn to live together. However, the only way we can live together is to look back to ourselves and admit where we fall short, and find ways to change. Moreover, we are called to accept others, walking with them in their journeys for the expressed purpose of lifting them up so they may get a glimpse of God rather then subjugating them to a theology or lifestyle. It is a fundamental refocus of religion: instead telling people what to believe, the role of the church is to ask the individual, “How can I help?”
This has great implications, because the quest of faith is no longer about being right, but it is a quest to find ways in which we can better connect with each other and with God. In other words, one of the main reasons that we need church is because it helps us to find ways to be lifted up, but when it goes the other direction, church can become a huge impediment to our relationship with God and to one another.
The base of the problem is we only know a small window of life, so it is easy to become judgmental when we look upon someone who is having a difficult time in life or is making some bad decisions. The problem is that when we do become judgmental we begin to lose sight of the most important thing, the person. For me, the most difficult thing that I heard from the pastor was that he was doing something he was trained to do, saying the “right words” and doing the “right things;” the problem was that though they might be right for him, they missed the mark for the needs of the family and left them feeling spiritually abused. His concern was more about being right then ministering to the needs and asking, “How can I help?”
Lent is a time for us to rethink our relationship with Christ. In some traditions, a great deal is made about what you are to give up, but in our tradition the emphasis is always more on what our relationship is with God. Sometimes that is giving something up, especially if it is inhibiting your relationship with God but when we think of Lent, fundamentally we are asking ourselves, how prepared for Easter are we? In reality, it is more than an individual quest or journey; rather, it is a corporate struggle to ask how we resemble Christ’s body in this world.
To meet that journey, every year we take a theme; this year, I am picking up on the theme of the Awakening of Hope, also the title of the Wednesday night class. I liked this because within this series it asks the question “why is it important?” Many in the church have this question, but so do our neighbors. Take the people in my demographic 35-50 “confirmed” urban-loving single folks (That is the largest single group around the church at 18.6%).
Many in my group when approached about church give various reasons for going, but often when pushed, the answer, or rather the question they asked back when they are approached is “why? What do I get out of going to church?” For many, the stock answers that we give to those questions are received poorly and simply do not connect with the real needs that are going on in the lives of the people. Moreover, often when churchgoers are asked why it is important to go to church, even those who are incredibly in love with their congregations, have a difficult time articulating why it is important.
Not so surprisingly, this is one of the biggest reasons why people all over the western world are leaving churches; there just seems to be something missing. My theory is that like much of western society, the church has bought into the idea of rugged individualism. In other words, church is about what I want, or like, or need. The problem is that while that may work for some “spiritual centers” and mystic communities, it is antithetical to the Christian faith. In fact, one of the constants throughout the whole Bible is the need for community, and the greatest exhibition of the kingdom of heaven in the world is when the community gathers together to celebrate God.
We often forget that for communities to work there has to be some intentionality. This intentionality comes firstly with understanding why we do what we do. This is why in the bulletin there are headers for each section of worship, so we know why it flows the way it does. In the reformed tradition, all worship, no matter what type, follows a basic principle that the community that is dispersed gathers together, hears the Word, responds to the Word, and is sent into the world. That intentionality gives us a basis for how we move forward and are made whole.
The second part of intentionality and the community is accepting people where they are. This is hard for most people because our biases get in the way. Whether rich or poor or various races and backgrounds, as people we often struggle to see where the people are in life. As a Pastor, I know that even in the best of situations we still do this; heck, I know that even though I hate it, even I do it at times. However, in order to make community work, we have to recognize that first, we are imperfect, and second, so is everyone else. This means that when we, or other people make mistakes, we need to give grace. Moreover, when we welcome someone, we cannot place conditions on our acceptance, because in doing so we may very well be rejecting something that God needs for our community.
So as we enter Lent we ask ourselves how are we preparing to be a stronger body for Christ; well, I would recommend coming to the Wednesday study! But even more than that, have conversations with Nancy or me and find out why it is we do what we do, and ask yourself when something frustrates you about someone else “am I accepting them for the child of God they are?” I hope that over Lent you take the time to look at these questions, and you might just find that your faith has been strengthened and you may come to see God even more fully!
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen