Your Church Can't Protect You From the World
The following is adapted from a weekly video I do for my congregation. You can view the video below.
When I think about gathering for worship, I am reminded of how sometimes people think of worship as a way of escaping the troubles of the world. Coming to church is a respite from the hectic nature of the world around us. I remember one member say that they wanted church to be a place of comfort.
Now, there is something to the church offering comfort in these times when the world seems to spin out of control-especially these days. But is that view what Jesus intends for the church? I also don’t think we can escape the horrors of the world because sometimes they spill into the church.
The Lutheran congregation where First Christian worships each Sunday recently had an experience where the world came crashing into their world. Roseville is a leafy inner-ring suburb where you wouldn’t think a murder would happen, but it did right across the street from the church. The church and indeed the city had to be on lockdown as the suspect was at-large. The church runs a preschool and all this meant getting the kids safely to a safe room all the while telling them they were going to “hibernate.” Thankfully, no one at the church was hurt, but it was a harrowing experience for the adults involved. The problems of the world invaded the church. The church didn’t just move forward forgetting the horror. Instead they responded by hosting a community prayer service which allowed both those at the church and those in the community to come in and pray.
As much as we would like it to be, our congregations aren’t “safe spaces.” On a Sunday in November 2017 in Southerland Springs, Texas a man came into First Baptist Church and killed 26 people before shooting himself. Two years earlier, there were the 9 who were killed at Mother Emmanuel AME in South Carolina by a man that had been invited to Bible Study. Those shootings make me wonder what could happen on a Sunday morning.
In Matthew 10 Jesus calls the disciples and gets them ready to send them out into the world. Jesus tells them in verse 16, “Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as shrewd as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.”
Being a Christian is not comfortable. Jesus sends us out, just like he sent those first disciples. Sometimes that means getting out of our comfort zones to engage in mission. But sometimes it means the world comes barges into the church. We might want to come to church to escape the world, but the church is in the world and sometimes the horrors of the world come right in through the front door.
Jesus calls us to be the church and as a church we take part in Bible Study and prayer and worship. We are called to grow as disciples, but we are also sent out into a world full of hurt and sorrow. We are called to care for the vulnerable, offer hope to those who feel hopeless and stand against injustice. Being church can be hazardous.
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We can’t escape the world, but inside the church, we are reminded of another reality, another way of being in the world. I grew up in the Black church and I was always wondered why people called each other “sister so and so” or “brother so and so.” None of these people were related, so why would they call each other brother and sister? It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that especially in the days of Jim Crow when African Americans were not treated as equals, coming into church allowed them to enter a reality where they were treated with dignity. Living into that reality had implications. That different reality allowed them to pursue justice- to make the world outside the church more like the world inside the church.
So dear church, we are called to into a world full of wolves. Church will not protect us from a sin-sick world. Sometime it might even barge into Sunday worship. May our congregations have the courage to deal with the challenges in our world because the world we face is becoming more and more foreboding and the light of Christ is needed now more than ever.