There’s something magical about opening a new box of crayons. Even today, as an adult! Seeing the colors all lined up in the box, each one fresh and new, the points perfectly pointed, the wrappers perfectly wrapped… it’s thrilling! A new box of crayons carries such an expectation of what is to come. From those orderly rows will spring forth imagination and creativity. The heart will find itself expressed on the page.
It’s the time of year children are headed back to school. Some are anticipating. Some are dreading. Some are excited and some are fearful. That’s the nature of new beginnings. There’s so much to look forward to and so much to worry about!
We are facing a time of new beginnings in our congregation as well. We are reaching within our congregation to enlist the talents and strengths of each one of us. And we will organize our talents and our energy to be the best servants of Christ we can be. I’ve always said our faith doesn’t live inside our building. It’s time to get out into the community and make a difference!
The crayons look lovely when they are fresh and new in the box. But the art happens out on the page.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.
–This article is in response to the events of Charlottesville, VA on August 11 and 12, 2017
Jesus was traveling through Samaria and stopped in a village. A woman there was drawing up water from the well. “Madam,” he asks respectfully, “may I have a drink of water?”
Thus begins one of our cherished stories. Jesus approaches a sinful woman, engages her in conversation, and shares the Good News.
What I want us to focus on now, however, is how Jesus gives us a beautiful example, a model for interaction with marginalized groups. He travels through Samaria in a time when Jewish people typically would not; he speaks to the Samaritan woman in a time Jewish people typically would not; he addresses her respectfully, engages her in conversation, shows empathy and understanding. For a Samaritan. Universally disregarded, disparaged, even hated. He trades avoidance for engagement. He trades disdain for compassion.
The America we saw yesterday is not great. What we saw yesterday is heartbreaking, shame-inducing chaos. Racism is never ok. Hate is never ok. This is not a political issue but a heart issue. The waving of historic flags to intimidate and oppress, the shouting of white supremacist catch phrases, it is not ok. In this I don’t argue freedom of speech or freedom to assemble. I simply argue that, as Christians, we must stand against bigotry in every form, against hate, discrimination, marginalization, and we must stand for love. The sidelines are full, and we don’t belong there, anyway.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. (Matthew 22:19)
It is simply amazing how divisive our culture has become! Every news article I read is focused on politics, culture, social reforms, or some other partisan subject. And I can’t tell if it has always been this way and I’m just noticing it, or if things really are different. It’s difficult to know how to, or how much to, engage in those kinds of conversations.
This week, I was reading a friend’s thoughts on “Post-Christian America” that resonated with Christ’s approach to culture in His own time. He wrote, “I think God may actually be giving the church wonderful opportunities for ministry in post-Christian America. As long as we’re focused more on the Good News than taking sides in a culture war.”
I love the caveat he adds—”as long as we are more focused on the Good News than taking sides…” It reminds me of when Joshua saw a man with his sword drawn: “Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?’ He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” Whose side are you on? Joshua asks. The simple answer was, “God’s.”
When we read through the Gospels, we don’t see Christ engaging in the issues of the day. We don’t really see Him philosophizing about the new way to phrase an old argument. We see Him, over and over again, engage people in a conversation about Himself and their individual responsibility to God. They attempted to trap Him in a conversation about their responsibility to pay taxes to an oppressive, godless government (A hot issue at the time), and Christ refused to engage. He told them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) The Samaritan woman tried, and He pointed her to Himself. Many times, we want to live like Joshua—whose side is God on? Instead of making sure we are on His side.
Psalm 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!