DON’T BURY THE LEAD!
Series for the season of Epiphany 2018
This expression is popular in journalism, and means: start with the most important information first; don’t get caught up in extraneous details that might lose your reader’s attention.
Sometimes, the Church needs to hear this call. It can be risky to “keep the main thing the main thing” when that “main thing” (telling the truth, siding with the oppressed and the marginalized) isn’t popular or easy. Yet we are called to be “light and salt for the earth” (Matt 5:13-16), following the example of Jesus, whose message of the reign of God didn’t mean playing it safe.
As we begin a new year in a community that is rebuilding and in a world that needs a new way to live together, let us revisit the stories of how Jesus came on the scene and declared his mission – and let us consider how we may do the same.
Creative Commons licensed photo by Michelle Milla
A sampling of Pastor Laurie’s sermons are found on this website. Contact the church office if you’d like a copy of a specific message not found here.
People of faith conduct themselves differently in times of crisis. They are not superhuman; they will tire and they will make mistakes from time to time. Those who focus on encouragement — that is, on giving courage to others — will be a living testimony to the God who is our source of hope.
On this rock I will build my church,” Jesus had said. And so he did. With a man named Peter, a man named Simon – a man who wasn’t perfect, whose transformation, as Pastor Jessica LaGrone writes, was “more like a slow cooker than a microwave” (The Rewritten Life, p. 94). A flawed human being, more like you and me than we might want to admit, simul justus et peccator, rock solid and stumbling block, building block and blockheaded, bold and faithful and putting his foot in his mouth. Simon. Peter. An expression of hope and character in both his names.
What seems stuck, what seems set in its way, does not have to stay that way. Hold onto God and don’t let go. Let God change your name. Let God rewrite the story of your life. It may not be an easy wrestling match. But it will be worth the effort.
We can learn from this ancient story that transformation and new life can take time to work on us. We are always works in progress. The only way to obtain patience is to exercise it. The only way to gain strength is to be challenged and stretched. The only way to access courage is to face fear. These qualities of character are seldom achieved overnight, but are, rather, the procurement of a lifetime. We make mistakes and missteps along the way. We are human. We are not perfect. Yet God is with us.
How do you find peace of mind — and how do you preach peace of mind — knowing that storms will inevitably come? The Lord is near always. To remind us to do the right thing, to comfort us in times of stress and trial, to give us the strength and courage and peace we need to be God’s hands and feet in the world.
Jesus’ practice of taking time for listening to God in the chaos — and in the stillness — kept him from succumbing to disorientation, kept him from just reacting to all the demands, robotically going from one need to another, getting sucked up and getting life sucked out of him. His practice kept him moving steadily forward into the mission God had given him, so that his actions would be impactful to an entire world and not that of just a few. My prayer for you, and for me, is that we may not only survive life’s stress and storms, but thrive — and not only for our own good, but for the good of the world, and for the sake of God’s kingdom.
I do not believe that we are meant to navigate the challenging path of life alone. I believe that we are hardwired for life in community, that it is a basic human need. We are social animals. It can be a messy prospect, and it requires vulnerability, the willingness to risk hurt, the willingness to forgive and to be healed of emotional wounds, and openness to growth.
As I thought of the many ways that we use the concept of “guarding” in our everyday lives, it occurred to me that we may often guard things that ultimately don’t need such vigilant protection, and, at the same time, leave exposed those things that really ought to be monitored more closely. We keep possessions under lock and key, and obsess over them endlessly, when an abundant life can really be found in learning to hold them more loosely and to share them generously; and we are free with things like opinions, or certain affections, or self-indulgences, when prudence or moderation or self-control would really lead us to greater positive connection with others and a sense of centeredness and integrity.
In the midst of crisis, in particular, I find that the focusing of thought on the simplest truths — God’s grace, love, kindness, compassion, peace — with one- or two-word phrases repeated with the breath, or a single phrase spoken over and over, has a calming and centering effect, that not only allows me to simply survive and get through the storm, but which makes faithful, courageous action possible.
I am standing for love. In the midst of uncertainty, fear, greed, inequality, distrust, even failure, I am standing for love. Like that first Easter 2000 years ago, not everyone can see this; not everyone can see love. It takes people standing for it, testifying to it, for others to see. And I invite you to join me in this endeavor. Will you testify to love in the face of all the hatred, violence, selfishness and shortsightedness that has the world in its grip? Will you testify to love in the face of the negative stereotypes that have been painted of religion and Christianity in particular? Will you show a different face, be the witness to grace, and peace, and compassion, and loving your neighbor?