As a pastor, it has always been a challenge for me to speak truth that has an edge to it. Truth that brings comfort is hopeful and easy to deliver. Truth that brings challenge is difficult to share. With that thought in mind, here goes:
I believe that fear is working to drain the life out of the church in the United States. We have not been surrounded and had the hope strangled out of us, we have handed it over freely in favor of a "holy huddle" until Jesus comes.
To expand a bit...There is evil in the world. It does exist. Since Genesis we have had pain, problems and death. But our real issue is that we have forgotten how to rally under The Banner of Love in the church in order come against that evil.
We act as though the end is near (insert cardboard street-sign here) and duck for cover. We grimly cling to a truth that protects, preserves and insulates us from the pain around us. What if, instead, we moved outside the four walls of the church, and carried with us the truth that protects, preserves and reconciles others who are in pain. Isn't that what is defined by Paul's words (2 Cor. 5:16-20) when he calls ALL OF US to be "ambassadors?"
So, let's not get sucked into the trap of fear, or it will swallow us up like George Jetson's treadmill. Come on church!
"Do not go gentle into that good night...Rage, rage against the dying of the light." Pick the right battles. Choose to have courageous conversations with your neighbor; someone who is not like yourself.
There is a fresh harmony that can return to the church today. Honestly, it isn't new. It's something that has been encouraged throughout the scripture story. It's an idea that could unleash The Spirit of God like the prophet Joel spoke about and Luke repeated in Acts 2. It bridges all that tries to separate. We have only to walk boldly, humbly and repentant toward that harmony. A blend of race, gender, culture and age that we have somehow forgotten through time, but that the word challenges us towards over and over again.
I truly believe that His Spirit will surround us in this mission. :)
It won't be easy. Through time, we have given our enemy too much tether to snare us with. Too many stereotypes to bind us in. Still, if we allow Christ to work in us and through us, He will tear apart the tether and release us from those stereotypes that have kept us from the dreams and visions that Joel spoke about. He will bring restoration to the church, and,
"...all the powers of hell will not conquer it!" (Matthew 16:18)
* For those needing a smile today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2Z8kPpLg1g
** For those who want a challenge today, The Sound, by Switchfoot, a music video in honor of Dr. John Perkins, a leader in the civil rights movement and someone I was fortunate enough to meet at a pastor's gathering at Highline College: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNQgABsUfK8
(BTW - If you are more accustomed to quieter music :) you may wish to turn the volume down, however Dr. Perkin's comments are interspersed into the song)