What’s your precious?

If you have ever watched any of the Lord of the Rings movies, you are familiar with Gollum. He was a hobbit who was corrupted by the Ring. It changed him. Because of this corruption, it changed his name and who he was. He became a split personality. He was hunched over. All for the power of the Ring – his precious.

What is your precious?

What is the thing that has corrupted you? What is the thing that has changed you? What has had an impact on you and changed you? What hunches you over?

Maybe it’s an actual thing. Maybe it’s a belief you have. Maybe it’s some kind of loyalty or identity you have. Maybe it’s a label you are attached to. Maybe it’s a person you are in relationship with or follow. Maybe it’s a habit or addiction.

Do you dare name you’re precious?

Is it money? a food? sex? a drug? the internet? social media? work? a political party? a politician? an ideology? a privilege? a sport? TV? what?

Lent is an opportunity for self-reflection. An opportunity to see the Gollum ourselves. To see an ugly part of ourselves that is disfigured and corrupt. To see that which we try to push away – out of sight and out of mind. Except our Gollum doesn’t go away quietly. The Precious is too powerful for Gollum to just slink away.

Instead, we have to deal with our own Gollums. To confront them. To acknowledge they exist. To know that we can’t deal with them on our own. We need help. And the only redemption there is, is God. God is the only one who can transform our Gollums back into the image of God. To free us from whatever our Precious is.

What’s your precious? More importantly, how is Jesus freeing you from your precious?

People don’t like change…

Or so we are told. Over and over again. To the point that it is believed to be true without any proof, or minimal proof at best. It’s more of an assumption at best.

How do I know?

Because I have watched people who claim to not like change go through major changes in order to avoid small changes.

I have watched people leave long term commitments because of a change. People have left jobs they have been at for a long time to go work somewhere else. People have left long term relationships. People have left churches over worship times changing. People have left organizations they have been a part of. People leave things all the time. Think about that for a minute.

Which is a greater change – staying in an institution you have a long term relationship with but adapting to a small change, or leaving that long term relationship and starting fresh somewhere else because you didn’t like the other change? It’s not change that people don’t like. If change was what people didn’t like, they wouldn’t leave long term relationships, long term jobs, churches, or institutions and organizations they have been a part of.

I think people leave these for a lot of reasons. Two of the main reasons is usually unspoken – loss of control and loss of privilege. Some people will leave when they no long feel they are in control when they used to be before. Some people will leave when their privilege is no longer accommodated – when their way of doing things is no longer seen as the norm of how things are done.

This happens when others are empowered – maybe people who had no power before. No power to make decisions – especially decisions that impact other people. When power dynamics change, it impacts many things – culture, money, focus, vision, relationships, decision making, and the future. When power dynamics change, it impacts the expectations, values, roles, and more. Systems change when power dynamics change. Often none of this is talked about in the open. But regardless, we know these things change. It’s what causes some people to leave.

And the other side of that is also true – it’s what will cause some others to come. To join in. When power dynamics change, new people are empowered. The key is creating a system that empowers people to empower others. So that power is never hoarded. So that power continues to be spread out and shared with more and more people. So that responsibility is shared. It’s how trust is built. It’s how community is developed and grows. It’s how healthy systems take root. It’s how people stay. Not because they are concerned about retaining their power, control, and privilege. But because they are excited to see how the relationships they have grow and deepen and how more people are added into their world in new and fascinating ways.

This is what Jesus did, over and over again. He was constantly tearing down established power structures and systems and empowering more and more people. It’s what his call to discipleship was all about. People didn’t reject his call to follow him because they feared change. No, rather, they rejected Jesus because it meant they would no longer be in control. They would no longer have privilege. It would change. The world would change. Their lives would change.

And that is too much for some. But for others, that change is about bringing life to them – sometimes literally. It’s what Jesus offers each one of us.

What is Lent?

There are many answers to this question. It’s a season of the church year of course. It’s a time in which people give up something they like, or sometimes things they know they shouldn’t be doing anyway. Some think of Lent as a time in which there are added things – added spiritual practices, almsgiving, service, worship, etc.

But at it’s core, Lent is really about this – preparation for Easter. It’s a time in which we prepare space in our lives for the risen Christ on Easter.

And to get to the risen Christ, we must go through death. Yes, Lent is an intentional time of facing death. It is fitting that we start Lent with Ash Wednesday. It is on Ash Wednesday that death gets right in our face – actually on our face – in the form of ashes on our forehead. We hear the words “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” There is no escaping death. We are reminded that we are mortal. We are reminded that we can not save ourselves. Rather, there is a Savior for us.

Lent and Easter give us ample opportunity to explore the fullness of the Christian promise – life, death, and resurrection. And to know that we cannot experience resurrection until we go through death. There is no other way.

Resurrection offers us a better life. A renewed life. A life of new possibilities in which the old ways are put aside in favor of something better – even beyond our imagination. The old ways die, but are resurrected as something a bit different. The core of what the old ways were is still there, but the goodness in them is brought out far beyond our wildest imagination.

So what needs to die in your life? What needs to die so that resurrection can take place?

Try letting some or all of the following things die this season: partisan identity and loyalty, addiction to being right, consumeristic tendencies, us versus them beliefs, redemptive violence, scapegoating, blaming, fear, anger, privilege, allowing money to make decisions in your life, brokenness, sin, abuse, participating in unjust systems, putting your salvation in anything or anyone other than God, selectively choosing what to follow of Jesus’ commands, comfort, the wall around your life that protects you from the injustices that others face daily. 

When these die, something will be resurrected. In their place will resurrect the ability to see the Image of God in others. In their place will resurrect the wholeness of Shalom. In their place will resurrect creation stewardship. In their place will resurrect forgiveness, love, grace, and peace. In their place will resurrect discipleship and service. In their place will resurrect an empowerment to more fully live into what it means to love God and our neighbor.

Resurrected life is better life. It is transformed life. Why in the world would we want to hold onto the things that prevent us from experiencing resurrected life? The only answer I can come up with is that we are afraid of how resurrected life will change us and that we will no longer be in control. Here’s the reality – we’ve never been in control. Stop fooling yourself. Let that idea die too.

It’s time for resurrected life. Lent is a season of intentionally facing death and letting things die. To make room for Jesus. To allow Jesus to take over. To be conquered by Jesus. So that new life can begin. So that the Kingdom of God can unfold in our lives. So that we can see how it is already unfolding. So we can participate in the unfolding of the Kingdom in our midst.

I pray you have a blessed Lent.

Why I do ministry

A question that I’m asked from time to time is why I do ministry with those experiencing homelessness. The only answer that matters is this – I do it because doing ministry with those experiencing homelessness is what it means to be church, to live out the faith that has been given to us.

Last evening at our truck stop ministry I met someone who had an impact on me – Sandy. I don’t know Sandy’s whole story, or much of her story really. I don’t need to. I could see it her eyes.

Sandy has a slew of challenges – that I know. I can only imagine what is in her past and how it has impacted her.

But Sandy was there. I had the privilege of sitting next to Sandy at dinner. And I listened to her. She talked. She needed to. She needed someone to just listen to her and not think she was crazy. And so I listened. And my heart broke for her.

We got her set up with some sleeping bags, scarves, blankets, sock warmers, gloves, hats, and a number of other supplies. And when the evening was over, myself and another person from the church prayed with Sandy for her safety.

And then we left knowing that Sandy was going to be sleeping outside at some point and we were going home.

Sandy isn’t unique. There’s a ton of Sandys out there. Waiting to be heard. Waiting for someone to see the humanity in them. Waiting for someone to just listen to them and not think they are crazy. Waiting for someone to see the Image of God in them. Waiting to pray with someone. Waiting to know that they are not alone.

That’s what ministry is all about. That’s what keeps me going – especially when I come across people like Sandy. Sandy impacted me last night.

She impacted me because of her generosity. She took what we gave her, and she shared it with those around her. She gave in a caring manner. She gave in a loving way. She had nothing, and she gave anyway.

Sandy impacted me last night. I think that’s what is supposed to happen when Jesus shows up. Last night Jesus was in our midst. And for part of the time Jesus showed up as Sandy – giving, loving, caring. She didn’t just give blankets and a hat to others. She gave me hope. She gave me humility. She gave me kindness. She gave me generosity. She gave me grace.

Sandy will remain in my prayers and in my memory. I hope she is able to get where she was trying to go. I hope she is safe. I know that she is not alone and I hope that there are others who will listen to her and see the image of God in her. It’s there. And it shows itself in the most beautiful way.

Same old sins

Humanity doesn’t change much over time. That should be comforting and disturbing at the same time.

I’m leading a study on the Augsburg Confession. The Augsburg Confession is one of the foundational documents for Lutherans. It dates back to the early 1530’s. It covers a variety of subjects. There are themes that run through it. That’s the part that I want to focus on.

Throughout the document, the signers of the document talk about the abuses that the Catholic Church of their day were doing. In many cases, these abuses could just as easily be written for today, just with a different target.

A theme that runs through the document is the abuse that the Church was engaged in – what I call transactional theology, or a holy quid pro quo. This is the idea that God has something of value to offer you, but in order to receive it, you must offer something in return. And in this case, it wasn’t just what God had to offer, but really, what the Church had to offer on God’s behalf. And for the most part, what the Church wanted in return was money.

This led to many abuses. It created an abusive system actually. Abusive systems abuse people, create abusers, and victims of abuse. Abusive systems conduct their abuse through means of culture, policies, and expectations. These are neutral things that be used for good or evil purposes.

And when an institution is involved, we can add one more element – efforts made to protect the institution at all costs create more abuse. This was true for the Catholic Church in the 1500’s. As we have learned in recent years, a different abusive system emerged for the Church in the 20th century. The same occurred for the Boy Scouts in the past – they are paying the price now for a past abusive system. And there have been plenty of Protestant church denominations which have had similar abuses. Government at every level has fallen prey to abusive systems throughout our history. The Grant and Harding administrations were two of the most corrupt administrations we have endured. Businesses have done this too. Enron and Deutsche Bank come to mind. Abuses around money have been a long standing tradition of humanity. Abuse and abusive systems are the sin that keeps going strong for humans.

Let me be clear though – Institutions, themselves are not abusive. It is the people who do the abuse and the ones who defend and protect the abusers that are the problem. It is the systems that people create in institutions that are the problem. This is why some institutions can and have recovered after abuse had been outed – the systems and people in charge of those systems were removed and good people and systems were put in place.

Abusive systems show up at various points in history in a variety of places – religion for sure. Abusive systems have been prevalent in government and politics too. These systems show up in education, business, sports, the military, and so much more. Abuse and abusive systems are often related to power and money. Power and money are key ingredients in abusive systems. Scripture tells us plenty of stories about evil systems tied to money and power. Paul encounters this everywhere he goes spreading the Gospel of Jesus. It’s what causes him to be beaten and jailed so many times.

If you want to identify an abusive system – look to see what is being defended and protected. Abusive systems do what they can to maintain the status quo – to keep the power and the money where they are: in the hands of the powerful.

The story of the Passion of Jesus is a prime example of this. Jesus was up against a couple of abusive systems – the temple and the empire. The temple and the empire worked together. The leadership of the temple and the leadership of the empire both benefited financially and with power over people. Both were abusive of people and exploited people. And both did what they had to in order to maintain the status quo. In the case of Jesus, it means killing him off, so that the status quo would continue.

Abusive systems refuse to see the Imago Dei – the Image of God – in the other. Abusive systems refuse to move towards Shalom – wholeness of creation. Abusive systems refuse to live into the Beatitudes. Abusive systems refuse to embrace peace. Abusive systems refuse to rest or observe Sabbath. Abusive systems refuse to love God, one’s neighbor, or one’s enemies. Abusive systems refuse to do justice and instead thrive on injustice in the most inhuman and exploitive ways possible. Abusive systems are the antithesis of what it means to follow Jesus. They are evil.

And they are as old as creation itself. But that doesn’t mean we throw our hands up in the air and give into them. No, we refuse to participate in abusive systems to the best of our abilities. We refuse to adopt the values of abusive systems. We refuse to protect abusive systems. We refuse to accommodate abusive systems. We look forward with hope for the day when abusive systems die so that different systems can take their place – Kingdom systems. God’s systems. Holy systems.

Walking in the ways of God

What is more important – an issue or a person?

What is more important – being right or living rightly?

What has more value?

If we care about an issue, about being right, rather than a person, or a group of people, then we are missing something important. If an issue, idea, a thing, or any other non-living thing is more important than a person or group of people, then our priorities are in the wrong the order.

This doesn’t mean being at someone’s beck and call or just giving in to someone else and their ideas. That’s the same idea, only coming from someone else’s standpoint.

When I talk about this, I’m talking about the Imago Dei – the Image of God. Which is more important – being right, or seeing the Image of God in someone else? That might mean losing a debate to someone who has no intention of seeing another way. Sometimes the most compassionate thing to do is to let the other person win a debate. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. It’s recognizing where you are and where the other person is and allowing that to exist, while hoping for something better. But there isn’t much point in trying to ram down your points if the other person won’t consider them. That just leaves everyone unhappy and upset.

Over the last few weeks, our Hebrew Scripture readings have talked about walking in the ways of God. That’s a bit of a tall order. What does it mean to walk in the ways of God?

I think it means a few things. It means to show grace and mercy – to give the other person what they don’t deserve and to keep away what they do deserve. Besides, who are we to really know what someone really deserves. We do this because it is what God has done for us – given us what we don’t deserve and kept away what we do deserve.

It means being forgiving. It means being a peacemaker – not a peace keeper or a conflict avoider. Peacemaking is hard work and is it vulnerable and often dangerous. Peacemaking is risky. Yet, God blesses peacemakers.

It means seeking justice for all. It means serving the poor and outcast. It means seeing the Image of God in others. It means loving our enemies. It means spending time with God in prayer and Scripture.

What others will do is out of our control and really, out of our concern too. We are called to walk in the ways of God, not force others into those ways. Should we invite others to walk with us? Of course. But some will refuse. They will remain stubbornly blind – they will have no desire to see the Imago Dei in the other. Maybe they fear change. Maybe they fear not being in control. Maybe they have been abused in the past and fear that it will happen again. We don’t know. But what we do know is that we are called to go forward, to walk in the ways of God.

When evil seems to be winning

There are periods in which it appears that evil is prevailing. This has been true in the past, is true now, and will be true again in the future.

These are periods of time in which we go day to day waiting for what’s next. We almost expect it to happen. And when it does come, it is not all that much of a surprise. It’s more about us noticing.

When these periods of prevailing evil come, we may want to crawl away, hide, or just curl up and go to bed. We may want to just call it quits, tell God that we are exhausted, or that we are up against evil systems that are relentless and unchanging – so what’s the point?

Those are the reactions that evil wants good people, followers of God, to have. Evil is counting on it in fact.

It is in those times of prevalent evil that followers of God are tested. Not tested in the way that God is putting people to the test to see if they will remain faithful. Rather, tested in a different way. Tested in the sense of revealing one’s true character.

God never promises that following God will be easy or pleasant. God doesn’t promise that following God’s ways will yield material reward and the pleasures of life. Jesus does command his followers to pick up their cross, die daily, and follow him. That’s testing someone to see what they are really made of. Are you all in or not is what the test is about.

Evil asks the same question when it seems to be winning – are you all in on God or not? If you aren’t, evil offers you a way to back out.

But God offers blessing to those whose true character is that of a disciple.

The Beatitudes speak to this:

“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.'” (NRSV, Matthew 5:3-12)

Notice who is blessed – those who have been tested and God has found goodness, in spite of the evil that happens. Blessed are the poor in spirit. That means there is poverty. Blessed are the peacemakers is a message that tells us that peace is not happening, and yet, there are those who will do what it takes to make peace – real peace, not just the absence of conflict. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (justice). That means that justice is not happening and there are those who will not stop until justice is obtained. And on it goes.

When evil seems to be winning, the disciples are called to respond. To show their true character. To show what they are truly made of. But it isn’t really about what the disciples are doing. We can’t do it on our own. Rather, it’s about what God is doing in us and through us. It’s about how we die every day to our own desires (to avoid the pain of evil). It’s about how God gives us everything we need and equips us to do what needs to be done and to say what needs to be said. All that in spite of the consequences of standing up to evil. We don’t face evil by resorting to violence or evil. We face it with godliness – love in the face of hatred and fear, peace in the face of violence and war, justice in the face of greed and corruption, forgiveness in the face of mistrust and revenge, mercy in the face of power and might, grace in the face of judgement and selfishness.

Evil doesn’t rest. It keeps going and going. But the problem with that is common. Everything needs a rest at some point, or it will kill itself. Humans need to rest in order to survive and thrive. Animals need it too. And so do systems. But evil believes it can just keep on going, without stopping, without pausing. That is the very essence of pride – that the rules of life don’t apply. And it is that very nature of pride which brings about evil’s defeat. The very thing that brought about its apparent success also leads to it’s great downfall and failure.

Evil works tirelessly. We aren’t called to match evil. We are called to present something far different – God’s kingdom. Shalom (wholeness). Sabbath rest. Freeing those that are oppressed. Life-death-resurrection. Stewardship. Service. Humility. Imago Dei. Love of neighbor. Justice. These are life giving things.

Evil falls because it never rests. We can rest assure that God prevails. And holds us in God’s hands.

What do we do when it seems as though evil is winning? We do nothing. Instead, God encounters us, transforms us, and sends us out to be God’s hands and feet in the world. And we proclaim the Good News to the communities we are called to share it with. We can’t defeat evil on our own. And it’s not really a battle anyway. It’s a different way. A life way. A God way.

Evil doesn’t rest

Evil doesn’t rest. Ever. That’s the nature of what evil is about.

God, on the other hand, rests. And calls on God’s followers to rest.

Evil believes in constant, unending production. People are just a tool to produce. Produce more stuff. Produce more profit. Produce more entertainment. Produce more bricks.

God is different. So different that God instilled God’s image and likeness in humanity. In the creation story, we are told that God rested on the seventh day. The Sabbath is created for humans to rest in order to worship God clear from the concerns of laboring. For God, what we produce is not as important as the relationship we have with God. Part of the reason is that regardless of what we produce it will eventually fade away and be forgotten. But God will not forget us.

Evil systems don’t rest. They work hard to maintain themselves. They suck in good people through lies and fear. Evil systems create an expectation that things will stay the same, so there is no point in resisting or, God forbid, changing the system. Evil systems create an expectation that God doesn’t show up and is only a character of the past – not the present or the future.

But the Good News is that evil will end. Evil Systems will crumble under their own weight. Their lies will be exposed. And when they fall, those who prop them up will come crashing down with them.

In place of these evil systems will be the Kingdom of God which has no end. The Kingdom offers rest from the labor of maintaining a costly evil system. The Kingdom of God is built on truth and on the very nature of God. And it will last. Evil will pass. It falls just at the time when it appears strongest and winning. It falls at the moment when it thinks it has won. Because pride proceeds the fall. And fall it will. And fall hard.

God is patient. The end result is already determined – God wins. Labor away evil. All of your labor produces nothing and will be forgotten. God wins. Amen.

Being Offended

I’ve heard several complaints about the Half Time Show of the Super Bowl. I’m a bit confused by it though.

First, let me be honest – I watched a total of about two minutes of the Super Bowl. It was at the end of the first half. We watched part of the Half Time Show – probably about half of it. Enough to know what happened. And enough to be left confused by the complaints.

Was there a limited amount of clothing? Sure. Just like past Half Time Shows – nothing special about this one. Last year the singer was shirtless. Was the dancing sensual? Sure. I’m pretty sure past ones were too.

But really, we’re going to be upset about a Half Time Show as if that is the main problem? I’m sorry, I just don’t get it. And I don’t have the energy to be upset.

I don’t get the Puritanism. I don’t get it when we spend more and more every year in our nation on movies that are for more sexual in nature and we brag about going to these movies. We spend more money, as a nation, on porn than most other things. But we think the Half Time Show is the problem?

I don’t get it when we are upset about a Half Time Show, but ignore the human trafficking that goes on all around the city hosting the Super Bowl. Or that the game generated around $1 Billion in revenue – what will that money be used for? Or that there is a ton of gluttony that happens across the US in relation to this game. Or that there’s a great deal of violence that happens in the game – football is just a violent game. Or any number of other things that we could be upset about.

Instead, it sounds more like we’re upset because we couldn’t possibly get away with wearing the same outfits and look good, or do the athletic moves that occurred. So they must be a sin. And we must be innocent.

There are plenty of injustices that exist in the world for us to be upset about. Things that we should get upset about – upset enough to actually start to act to put an end to them. The Half Time Show isn’t one of them. It’s more like looking for something to complain about and feeling like we did something, because we complained.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. It’s just not that important. If what you saw bothered you that much, do something to empower women. Work to pass legislation that will protect women from violence. Don’t just complain, go and do something to build people up.

I’m uncomfortable

I’ve heard of people leaving their church in recent times because they are “uncomfortable.” I understand. I’m uncomfortable too.

I’m uncomfortable.  Since following Jesus I’ve been very uncomfortable.  I haven’t had a day in which I have been comfortable actually. And it’s getting worse. Every day I am more and more uncomfortable.

I’m uncomfortable with the level of homelessness we have in the wealthiest nation in history.  

I’m uncomfortable with child hunger.  

I’m uncomfortable with tearing families apart.  

I’m uncomfortable with the mistrust that exists in our nation.  

I’m uncomfortable with the brokenness that exists.

I’m uncomfortable with how our stewardship of God’s creation is.  

I’m uncomfortable that we listen to the god of money to make decisions, and that our first concern is the economy and not the welfare of the population.  

I’m uncomfortable that we have been in a near constant state of war for most of our nation’s history.

I’m uncomfortable we have adopted the belief that the ends justify the means.  

I’m uncomfortable that the truth and seeking truth doesn’t seem to matter that much.  

I’m uncomfortable that there is a large segment of society that sees no value in education.  

I’m uncomfortable that people seek salvation and Messiah-like figures from the world of politics and have for most of human history.  

I’m uncomfortable that we fully embrace scapegoating – that we are in fact addicted to it.  

I’m uncomfortable that we think others need to repent, but that we are innocent and in no need of confession or repentance.  

I’m uncomfortable that our vision is clouded so we can’t see the Image of God in others.  

I’m uncomfortable that we reject and dehumanize the stranger, the foreigner, instead of doing what Jesus tells us to do – welcome the stranger. 

I’m uncomfortable that we don’t practice health care, but rather only care about treating sickness because there is more money to be made that way.  

I’m uncomfortable that racism seems to be alive and well in our nation.  

I’m uncomfortable that our criminal justice system is unjust.  

I’m uncomfortable that people are mistreated and dehumanized because of their sexuality.  

I’m uncomfortable that it seems to be acceptable to degrade women.  

I’m uncomfortable that we embrace the idea of power as a value, and dismiss the virtue of compassion and care for others.

I’m uncomfortable that we believe selfishness and greed is good.

I’m uncomfortable that there are many Christians who think they can claim to be followers of Jesus without actually doing anything that Jesus commands them to do as followers.  

I’m uncomfortable that there are Christians who think that being a follower of Jesus comes with a promise of being comfortable.  

I’m uncomfortable that many turn a blind eye to facts and evidence and data that doesn’t agree with our beliefs and we think that our beliefs are fact.  

I’m uncomfortable that we put our faith and hope in political parties, and only give lip service to the faith from God.  

I’m uncomfortable that we care more about our own stuff, as opposed to those suffering around us.  

I’m uncomfortable that we think that strength means defeating ones opponents rather than listening and making peace with them in a way that benefits all and starts to build trust and community.  

I’m uncomfortable that we have fully embraced the idea of us vs. them.  

I’m uncomfortable that we can read what Scripture says and can spin it into something completely different because we don’t like it.  

I’m uncomfortable that we have Christians who think they don’t have to read the Bible at all.  

I’m uncomfortable that we have Christians who think they don’t need to grow spiritually and in faith because they were confirmed when they were in 8th grade.  

I’m uncomfortable that we think we can be loyal to Jesus and anything else at the same time, especially when that other loyalty conflicts with what it means to follow Jesus.  

I’m uncomfortable that we can justify excluding whole groups of people from God’s kingdom because they sin in a way that we are not likely to sin.  

I’m uncomfortable with the level of hatred and fear that exists in our nation and in our churches.  

I’m uncomfortable that we have many Christians who don’t actually believe the faith.  

I’m uncomfortable that many Christians don’t expect to encounter Jesus and really don’t want to because that would mean their lives would change and be transformed.  

I’m uncomfortable that we value being in control, the very first sin recorded in Scripture, is what we value more than transformation and resurrection.  

I’m uncomfortable with so much more that could easily be on this list.  

I’m uncomfortable that this list is so very long and leaves me exhausted.  

I’m uncomfortable.  

But I am comforted by this – I am not alone.  You are not alone.  We are not alone.  Jesus never promised that following him would be comfortable.  In fact, he promises the exact opposite thing – to the point that we may die for the faith.  He doesn’t promise that we will be comfortable.  But he did promise that he would be with us.  And he is.  Right now.  In the midst of discomfort.  He is here.  He is present.  He is active.  He is alive.  Let us cling to him.