Last Sunday I preached at my home congregation. We talked about our heritage as coming from a people called "Israel" meaning "one who struggles with God." We talked about Jesus' repeated admonishes throughout scriptures to "not be afraid." A portion of that sermon seemed relevant to much of what Lynn and I have been writing on this blog recently. So, I share it here:
"It is part of who we are as followers of God and part of what Jesus repeatedly asks us to do to not be afraid. It seems to me lack of fear is far from the character of the church today. Rather the church fears those who believe differently, fears that our children will be led astray, fears change. Just try suggesting that the church might be wrong and the defensiveness which is the common reaction betrays deep-seated fears.
I have taken part in several conversations about the future of the church and the first reaction is often defensiveness. The impulse seems to be to talk about what is wrong with people who are leaving church. They’re not trying hard enough. They’re being too picky. They’re not making faith a priority. Whatever bits of truth might be in these criticisms still the defensiveness prevents us from listening and betrays our fear. But we are set free from such fears. Jesus lived and died to show us the way out of fear, to free us from terror induced self-centeredness, to free us from obsession with believing just right and doing just right in order to earn our salvation. Jesus freed us so that we can hear the cries of our neighbors and be God’s love in the world. Jesus freed us so we can follow our heritage and be a people who will wrestle with faith and even wrestle with God for the sake of our neighbors. We can do that because by the life and death of Jesus we are forgiven and promised hope in this world and eternal life to come. We don’t need to ignore it or freak out about it if we don’t know the answers. We continue seeking. We continue wrestling with God. It is not just our heritage and our calling but is essential for telling the story. It is essential for our children. If we pretend to have all the answers or don’t consider the questions carefully then our sharing of the Good News loses credibility. If we are afraid of being wrong or of needing to change our fear will stop up our ears and prevent us from hearing truths that are necessary for bringing about healing and justice in this world."
Are there fears which make it more difficult for you to listen? Are there questions you are afraid to ask God? Do you live up to your heritage as "one who wrestles with God?"