This week I was asked to provide a column for the Waverly newspaper. Here is the text of my very first article, for those of you who live outside of Bremer County. The editor calls my column "Wise words," oh my!
I like fruit. I especially enjoy oranges, but the truth is I don’t eat oranges as often as I could because, well…this is a bit embarrassing, but eating an orange is messy. There’s the peeling, juice gets all over the place, and have you ever noticed how hard it is to eat an orange gracefully? On the other hand, a handful of pretzels or cheese and crackers is pretty easy. No muss. No fuss.
When it comes to nutritional value there are big differences between fruit and carb-laden snacks. I suppose I could guilt myself into eating more fruit, but like many Americans I usually opt for anything that’s fast and easy.
It’s pretty silly, when you think about it, worrying about messiness over expediency when my health and well- being is dependent on a balanced diet of good food.
Relationships are sort of like this too. There are easy ones, with family and close friends - they are affirming, and seem to go together like cheese and crackers. Then there are acquaintances, the kinds of relationships that we can take or leave, but still have a high comfort level. And then there are relationships that take effort – they are like oranges. They can sometimes be messy but IF we are willing to go all in we are often blessed by the new discoveries that we make about others as well as ourselves.
As a Christ follower it’s a whole lot easier to hang out with church people. But in reality there are many people in Waverly who think that church is “messy”. For some reason we church folk haven’t been as kind or compassionate or accepting as we could have been over the years and we have, sadly, given our God, and the Church, a bad reputation.
Now this is reversible - most difficult situations are, but it takes hard work. It takes vulnerability, it takes courage and it takes those of us who have been comfortable in our churches to take the first step. Yes, I know we have our beloved Church buildings ready and waiting for folks to come and taste and see that this whole faith journey is actually a pretty cool thing. But the truth of the matter is that we are a bit intimidating. Our music is different, we stand up sometimes and sit down others. We even have preachers (like yours truly) who invite people to say Amen! What’s up with that?
And so, friends and Christ followers, we have to step outside of OUR comfort zones and put forward a new face around Church. When you stop to think about it, this really is the coolest thing about being a follower of Jesus, that He trusts us, fragile and goofy and sometimes messy as we are, to go out into the world and represent Him.
In our places of work, at our times of play, in our meetings and on our neighborhood playgrounds, people who aren’t sure about Jesus learn about Him by watching us. What if each of us were to get out there and take the next step; introduce yourself, start a new friendship, risk the messiness of meeting someone who stretches us beyond our comfort zone and see what happens. When we step out in faith, trusting that the Holy Spirit is alongside us God is glorified and the kingdom of Heaven will draw nearer. And that’s what the faith journey is all about!
“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world…let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)
in Christ, together,