Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…  

When I was a kid, I did not like vegetables. When I was a teenager, I had so much faith in God, or perhaps so little faith in God, that I felt like I needed to save the world, by myself. When I began my theological studies at Luther Seminary, I pretty much had life and faith figured out. I knew right from wrong, I was confident in my theology, there was not much room for grey, everything was black and white.

Now keep in mind, I was 23 years old, had married my high school sweetheart a month earlier, and lived my entire life in my parents’ house in a small town in Illinois. Paid cash for my car, paid my way through college and never made a rent or mortgage payment. My theology had been nurtured in a conservative Scandinavian congregation that had no people of color, no openly gay or lesbian members, every pastor had been male, and no women served on the church council. Throw in the mix that except for a brief crossing of the border at Niagara Falls, I had never been outside of the United States or West of the Mississippi. No one in my family was divorced, everyone was employed, and we had been spared unexpected or accidental death.

When I was a kid, I did not like vegetables, life was simple, religion was simple, every day was another episode of the Andy Griffith Show. Most problems could be solved in a half hour and if they couldn’t, then it was best not to talk about them. In younger years, ethical debates were settled primarily by a literal reading of the Bible or some moralized intellectual understanding of current events. Actual human stories were rarely considered. Jesus said it, I believe it, that settles it! Of course, the Christian Church and the followers who carried his name tended to put a lot of words in Jesus’ mouth and did not pay particular attention to what he did say.

If my father were alive, he would say, “Son, quit your carrying on. If you have something to say, just say it.” So here it is: I don’t have the time or the energy for those who want to protect Jesus from sinners. I have little tolerance for self-righteous religious people who want to sit in judgment of others. The church was never meant to be a country club for religious overachievers, any more than a hospital was meant to be an athletic club for the healthy. I have no time or energy for cranky religious people who want to exclude anyone who does not look like them, vote like them, speak their language, or fit into some uniform mold of godly living.

We were never called to be the gatekeepers, the membership committee or the religious police. I am not 23 anymore – far from it. I have seen much of the world now, I have witnessed more human brokenness, pain, sorrow and death than is perhaps healthy. But real life gives perspective to the real-life journey of God’s people. Broken, insecure and afraid, longing to love and be loved, all people are pretty much the same. There is little that is “black and white” in the complicated, tear-stained journey of humans. Human life, life that is messy long after a thirty-minute sitcom is over, life outside the city limits of Mayberry, is a thousand shades of grey. Following Jesus is really about understanding our identity and our place in the kingdom. We are servants, we are foot washers and bread breakers, we are called to love. We do not need to worry about God’s reputation; She can take care of Herself. Just love!

Eat your vegetables and love. Is that enough for today?

One day closer.

Pastor Jim

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