Many, many years ago about this time of year a few friends of mine were in the City. In this case the city was Chicago. We were walking along the beach of Lake Michigan and my friend piped up and said, “Let’s join the Polar bear club!” If you do not know what the polar bear club is, that is probably a good thing. But in this case the polar bear club consists of really stupid people who think it is fun to jump into the nearly frozen lake when the temperature outside is at or below freezing. Being teenagers with a challenge set, we embarked! Like I said, it was really stupid and I don’t think any of us ever told our mothers why we were sniffling for the whole week after.
I think about that plunge into the cold waters of Lake Michigan whenever the weather begins to change. It is not out of some strange desire to do it again, that desire left 30 seconds after I got out of the water the first time! But there were three things that we did before getting into the water. We each took a deep breath and let it out, we looked to each other for support, and we ran into the water together.
We all did stupid things as kids, and this was tame by most standards, but each time we test ourselves we learn something deep down about ourselves. Aside from learning just how hard it is to breathe in near-freezing water, I caught a glimpse of strength in the few seconds we were in the water, and, most importantly, just how much my friends meant to me. As another friend said when I relayed the story later on “you did not have to try and kill yourself to find that out.” True, but we also knew that while it was stupid, it was fairly safe and popular at that time.
When we think about faith, calling, and the church, sometimes finding out who we are as a person of faith, or even an institution relies on us setting aside logic, comfort, or even knowledge to risk. As a mentor of mine once said, “Risking is the only way to find the edges and push them, and when you push the edges you might just push through and find yourself in a glorious new world.
This Sunday we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. This is an interesting celebration because it is a culmination of the liturgical year, as it marks the transition from one liturgical cycle to another, but more importantly, it reminds us that we are kingdom citizens. This means that we can find neither comfort nor peace from things of this world, we can only find that from God. But to let go and find that peace we have to do something that our world says is really stupid; we have to give up on and let go of the things that hold us back in this world.
In a way is it like taking a plunge into a very cold lake,: to some it makes no sense, even to the group of us that did it, it did not make sense at the time, but by doing it our relationship changed, and it began one of the best years of my life, all because I let go and allowed myself to experience that freedom. As a member of God’s kingdom you can experience that freedom every time we come together, challenging each other in our faith and growing with each other in our lives.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen