Friday, June 19, 2015

Let's Cross Over to the Other Side

I did not need an alarm clock to awaken me this morning as my spirit started to stir a few minutes after 5:00. I had finished 75% of my sermon on Tuesday. But my heart had one question as I opened my Bible this morning.

Is there a word from the Lord?

What would God want to say to my congregation this week? How would Jesus respond to the horrific massacre that occurred in one of his churches?

Is there a word from the Lord?

The Gospel lesson appointed for this Sunday is Mark 4:35-41. It's a miracle story about Jesus calming the wind and the sea. My focus was on fear and faith all week....until this morning when I started to see verse 35 in a new light.

"Let's cross over to the other side of the lake," Jesus says. It seems like such a small thing to say and an insignificant part of the story. But Jesus and his disciples have to leave the crowds behind if they cross to the other side. Jesus' popularity has been skyrocketing. People have seen his ability to heal the sick and cast out demons. He has dozens of people willing to follow him. And yet, he's willing to leave them all behind.

"Let's cross over to the other side."

As preachers, we are regularly caught in a desire to please people, grow our churches so we can report impressive numbers to our bishop, and hear words about how great our sermon was. We want people to like us. The more people who come, the larger our egos, our salaries and our next church.

But what if Jesus is instead inviting us to cross to the other side - to leave the crowds behind?

What if Jesus is inviting us to share the fullness of his message, including the words we wish he would have never said because they make us so uncomfortable, painfully stepping on our toes?

Nine people were murdered in a church this week. Nine African-American people were killed by a white racist during the middle of a prayer service in a church this week. People came to church to pray and ended up being killed.

Is there a word from the Lord?

If you want to be popular, then you may not want to say a word this week about racism or gun violence. How many times have I heard my dad tell me he listens to Joel Osteen because Osteen makes him feel good about himself? Don't people come to church because they want to feel better - to see some light in the midst of their dark lives?

But please, preachers, don't be silent this week. Please don't seek to please your congregations. Please don't seek to turn the service of worship on you.

Rather, stand and name the sin of racism. Stand and share words about the Prince of Peace. Stand and talk about our nation's addiction to guns and the false sense of security we keep offering each other. Invite the congregation to ponder what symbols are still dividing us, causing pain in the lives of others. Take a cue from John Stewart and name the truth of where we are as a sin-sick nation that has not come close to healing our racial divide.

Some people - perhaps most people - don't really want to be moved out of their place of comfort. Crowds flock when there is good entertainment and a word that supports our way of life instead of challenging it.

But other people are depending on us to say something - to rise up and call people to action. Let us name the truth. Let us invite people to work for change in this land. Let us be instruments of peace and reconciliation in a deeply divided nation.

Is there a word from the Lord?

No comments: