I'm not sure how the Summer of 2020 will be remembered. Across the board this past summer has been incredibly challenging. From the loss of meeting physically, in-person for worship to uncertainties from the twisting COVID-19 virus to the hyper-polarized/politicized landscape America has become to the broken ugliness of systemic racism and racially infused hate, this past summer has caused me to see God and His profound love in new light. The experiences of the summer brought forth a driving response of worship. Worship is a powerful response to who God is and what God has done, is doing and will do throughout creation history.
Worship centers us when everything else is off kilter. Our world is off kilter. Normally our lives are directed by natural world principles and certainties that have been validated and established. We live somewhat secure in those validations from the natural world. We are thankful that gravity works without fail. Very few times are we allowed to watch the scientific method, where experiments fail and succeed, play out in front of our daily lives. COVID-19 has done just that.
What normally works out with some certainty during the expected flu season has been left with some speculation looming. These uncertainties build frustration. Isolate or don't isolate? Limit workers or open full scale? Mask on or mask off? Open the church building or create new spaces?
The honest truth is that what seems to work for a moment is not working in all cases and that is the scientific method working out at its grandest form. However, frustration and doubt create division.These frustrations become polarizing and when that division happens, opportunity seekers swoop in and stir that division greater.
Compound that with a growing racial tensions in the United States fueled by police brutality, increasing poverty and responsive indifference and we find ourselves in an incredibly volatile situation.
What is the answer to this? I happen to believe with every fiber of my being that the Gospel is the answer!
Jesus Christ, who is God, emptied himself of everything that is rightfully his by divine nature and right, to become like us, humans, in complete frailty and brokenness. God the Son, Jesus, entered the human condition to live, to set the example of life, to show the way to life, to serve, to sacrifice his life, so that full and complete restoration of the broken relationship with God can be restored and so that the division existing between people can be healed. This is a brief explanation of Paul's wonderful song found in Philippians 2.
In Philippians 2, Paul challenges followers of Jesus to share in this mindset where humility leads us into relationship with God and care for each other; where our complaint is hushed in pursuit of God's righteousness together; and where our lives shine like stars against a dark sky as we live through dark days.
This is the main thing. Many of us live a majorly minor life. We complain. We take our eyes off Jesus. We allow personal preference or pride to direct our steps. Jesus calls us to humility, service to God and others, and goodness.
Discipleship to Jesus, as seen in the Gospels or echoed through the epistles, always entails that we are in direct pursuit of our relationship with God and that we are in direct pursuit of reconciling with other people through Jesus. This is how we receive, grow in and express the Greatest Commandment--loving God with all we are and loving others as ourselves.
Our current social crisis has accelerated much tension that already existed in our world. People tend to extend hate, indifference and apathy toward others over love, kindness and humility. This tension is not far from the church either.
Any discipleship commitment to reconcile with God that does not include reconciling with other people--including racial reconciliation-- simply not live out the Gospel of Scripture. Any discipleship that promotes personal preference over humility does not live out the Gospel of Scripture.
We must live as stars shining against dark skies. Some of that shining means having some hard conversations that lead us to understanding where and how the Gospel speaks into and leads the brokenness of our world into God's way and healing.