Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…
“Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” I Corinthians 13:12
We gather in a sanctuary. What is a sanctuary? It is a safe place. A bird sanctuary is a safe place for birds. A wildlife sanctuary is a safe place for animals. Is our sanctuary a safe place to worship? Is it a safe place for all humans, regardless of their history, race, orientation, or social standing? Has the Christian Church typically been a safe place for saints and sinners? There is no easy answer to these questions; it would be ridiculously reductive to answer yes or no. Reality is more complicated than that. The church has sometimes provided sanctuary for refugees, the oppressed, and those who are persecuted. The church has also been inhospitable, exclusionary, and downright mean-spirited to those who are on the fringes of society: to those who are vulnerable, to those broken by divorce, to those who identify as gay or lesbian.
I have spent a career trying to live up to the TLC motto, “Mine is the Church Where Everybody’s Welcome.” I have encouraged people to take off their masks, to risk being known, to trust our community, to be authentic to themselves, and to freely share their life stories. Like the snails photographed outside my office, I believe that no one should walk, crawl, or slither alone.
Now the signs are pointing to a day in the not-too-distant future when we will be discarding our masks and many among us are terrified at the prospect. Some fear Covid19 transmission, others have just become comfortable being incognito, hidden, safe in anonymity. The masks, that were so oppressive when made mandatory, are now like a baby’s security blanket protecting us from human interaction. Who will we be going forward? Will we be less likely to engage, less likely to make the effort to seek the company of others, less likely to allow others to see us as we are?
The day is quickly coming when the masks will not be mandatory, smiles and tears will not be hidden, and we will have to risk being seen and known again. My prayer is that our church will be a sanctuary once more. My prayer is that, in the name of Jesus, we will welcome every broken soul, every outsider, every senior citizen and noisy toddler, every color and every orientation, every Republican and Democrat, every doubter and debtor.
The masks are about to come off. Do not be afraid. The masks are about to come off. Be ready to smile and to embrace the diverse children of God. Do not be afraid; you are fully known by God and loved. We are called to do no less. It might be scary, but then, life is scary. Like the snails, we are not alone, we are slithering through life together.
My love to you dear snails!