I then went for a second opinion. I made an appointment with a neurologist who came highly recommended and who is affiliated with one of our teaching hospitals. The doctor listened to my words detailing my experiences. He then read the hospital records and immediately said with an expressive tone in his voice, "I cannot believe they immediately slapped you on this medication." He proceeded to share how there is nothing conclusive in my story or my records to conclude that I am suffering from seizures. He ordered me off the medication immediately and quickly connected me with a cardiologist to continue to explore what is known about my heart.
I have spent the last four weeks thinking that I am prone to seizures. I have spent the last four weeks on a medication that was wrecking havoc with parts of my life. I have spent the last four weeks dealing with what it means to not be able to drive before being told that I should be able to drive very soon - as soon as we fully discern that it is my heart that is causing my fainting. I now wait for another appointment in ten days and then a table tilt test scheduled for the middle of October.
A second opinion revealed a very different reality. A second opinion changed almost everything. A second opinion restored pep in my step and increased my hope. I needed someone to look at me and my records a second time, and this second look has possibly changed my life.
As a pastor who is seeking to bring about change in our church, I spend many moments hoping that people turned away by the church will offer us a second look - a second chance.
Pastor Terry Jones captured the attention of the world last weekend as he threatened to burn copies of the Koran at his Florida church. He claimed to be representing Jesus Christ, one who proclaimed love, peace and forgiveness. But his words made me weep. I have never experienced Jesus as one who would call us to cast judgment on another religion. I have never experienced Jesus as one who would tell me to burn another's holy book. This is not the Jesus I have grown to love and follow. As I watched Pastor Jones on television, I prayed for the people all over the world watching his actions and listening to his words. I prayed that all people outside of the church would give the church a second chance - that somehow they would be led to offer the church a second look.
Each morning when I get off at the Gallery Place Metro stop, I take the escalator to the top of 7th and H Streets where I am greeted by a man shouting that "Jesus is Lord." He stands and faces the escalator, positioning himself in a spot where he believes his voice will carry, and seeks to make sure that each person riding the three escalators will hear that "Jesus is Lord." I have been tempted to stop and engage him in a conversation many mornings. I have not yet done this, but I keep thinking about his actions. I personally do not know anyone who has come to know Jesus by someone shouting at them that "Jesus is Lord." I am convinced that our actions speak louder than our words.
As I walk up 7th Street towards K, I pray each morning that all who hear the words of this man will somehow give the church a second look. I pray that people who hear this voice will not be led to believe that people who follow Christ have only one task - shouting at other people as they get off the Metro.
In Washington, I know more people who are not connected to a church than people who are connected to a church. I am blessed with incredible friends - some of whom love the church and others who cannot see why anyone would want anything to do with the church. I pastor in a community where there are thousands of unchurched and dechurched people living all around us. I hope and pray that they do not allow Pastor Terry and the man at the Metro to shape their opinions of the church. I pray that they will come inside our church and take a second look.
Who are we? We're young and old, lifelong church goers and people new to the church, people filled with faith and people struggling to believe, former Catholics and lifelong Methodists, gay and straight, housed and unhoused, liberal and conservative, employed and unemployed, government workers and students, single and married, parents and grandparents, and so many other things. What unites us is a sincere desire to figure out what it means to be faithful - not in the shadows of sanctuary stained glass but in the streets and neighborhoods of our city. We preach love and acceptance of all people no matter what. We proclaim that all are welcome and that it does not matter what you wear. We have taken a stand to radically include all people, especially people who have too often been turned away from the church. We're trying hard to be church - a different kind of church.
And, you're invited.
You're all invited.
Come inside, offer us a second look.