From the Pastor: “On the Journey”

never forgive never forgetOne of the more poignant moments for me over the past few weeks was when we arrived in the Naba’a neighborhood of Beirut and saw this graffiti spray-painted on a wall.

As Naba’a is a neighborhood filled with refugees from the Syrian war, it’s not hard to imagine these words coming from the bitter experience of hardship and loss, coupled with the difficulties of day to day life where cramped conditions, unemployment and an uncertain future weigh on the mind and soul.

Yet it is also the unconscious motto of people around the world who have been wronged.  Whether from violence, abuse, or even just a perceived personal slight, “never forgive, never forget” becomes a motto for building up walls between people, or justifying revenge – an eye for an eye.  After all, that’s Biblical, isn’t it?

In fact, “an eye for an eye” was originally intended to limit retribution, to keep it proportional to the harm done.  But the reality is that “never forgive, never forget” never solves the deepest issues; it cannot heal what has been done to us, nor does it acknowledge places where we ourselves may be at fault, where we have harmed others by our action or inaction. Continue reading “From the Pastor: “On the Journey””

From the Pastor: “Commitment, Busyness, Guilt and Purpose”

pulled-all-directionsCommitment.    God loves the world.  The Gospel is for everyone.   But unless we are willing to put everything on the table to follow Jesus, we aren’t His disciples.  Crowds of people came to Jesus to hear Him speak, to have Him cure their hurts in this world, to see Him perform miracles.  But Jesus turned away many would-be disciples: the folks who wanted to keep a foot in both worlds, the folks who were willing to settle for a side-order of Jesus as long as they could have parts of their lives stay the way they wanted it.  If we want to keep our lives in this world, we will (eventually) end up empty-handed.  If we lose our lives for the sake of the Gospel, we end up with everything.

This is a hard truth to hold onto and to live out: that the love of God is real and unconditional – and at the same time, to receive it as a follower of Jesus means making a commitment to God and to God’s mission that reshapes how we look at everything else in our lives.  It means that we belong to God and to other Christians.  Whoever we are, whatever our life situation, to be a disciple is to be committed to living out our faith, growing in our faith, and building one another up with our gifts and resources.  It’s an old saying that 20% of folks in a church do 80% of the work.  A church will (and should) always have people in various stages of spiritual maturity.  Yet we can’t lose sight of the reality that spiritual maturity involves being committed to using our gifts, talents and resources for God’s mission. Continue reading “From the Pastor: “Commitment, Busyness, Guilt and Purpose””

From the Pastor: “Problems or Opportunities?”

Give me your eyes for just one second.

Give me your eyes so I can see

Everything that I keep missing.

Give me your love for humanity.

Give me your arms for the broken hearted

Ones that are far beyond my reach.

Give me your heart for the ones forgotten.

Give me your eyes so I can see.

“Give Me Your Eyes”, by Brandon Heath

Sometimes it’s so hard to see what’s right in front of us.  A friend and colleague told me a story a while back that’s been percolating in the back of my mind ever since.  It’s a story about a church that recognized a need in their community for a food ministry.  Significantly, they didn’t try to just do it by themselves, but found partners in the community to share in the ministry.  It’s been a great way for all of them to experience and share God’s love and connect with the community.

Yet, as almost always happens in the midst of reaching out and caring for people, we find that people and needs don’t fit neatly into the processes and preconceptions we bring into the mission.  In this case, it was something relatively minor: as this food ministry took root, they found that people started coming early to get in line.  If you’ve ever driven down Division Street in Fond du Lac on a Friday afternoon, you can identify with what this congregation was experiencing… Continue reading “From the Pastor: “Problems or Opportunities?””