The world can be an ugly place, especially in early spring. The snow is dirty and filled with bits of garbage. The grass is a sickly yellow. The trees look like skeletal remains. In my front yard there is a rusted hood of a toy truck sticking out of a mound of ice and near it a strange red piece of what I hope is rope.
The world can be an ugly place, especially in early spring, but we know it won’t last forever. Soon the trees will bud and the grass will turn green. Soon flowers will bloom. Soon the garbage will be cleaned from the gutters. Soon March will turn to May and the world will return to life.
We are Christians and this change of seasons is good for our souls. It is a yearly reminder: Life is hard and we often dwell in the shadow of the cross - but Easter is coming! And with it the hope of new life to come.
All morning we hunted for the missing calf. Our pants became caked with mud and manure as we criss-crossed through the pasture. It was hot and everyone was exhausted. So when I stumbled over the animal in the tall grass. I pointed and cried out to the others.
It wasn't moving, however, and was covered with flies. One of the high school students asked, “Is it dead?”
I nodded. “I’m afraid so."
So when it kicked its back legs you can forgive me for jumping back a step. And when it stood up clumsily and loped off to find its mom, you can understand the goofy smile that broke across my face. I was delighted. I found the missing calf. The calf found its mother.
What was lost had been found. What was thought to be dead had come to life.
I carried that smile with me through the rest of the mission trip. I looked for ways to talk about it, inserting it inappropriately into conversations about football or the lunch menu. I annoyed the people around me but I couldn’t help it. It felt like a miracle.
If this is how I felt about a cow whose destiny was a dinner table how much more must our God rejoice when one of his creatures turns from sin? How big does God smile when he is embraced by someone he made?
You are not a cow! When you are found Jesus leaps for joy. You are a child of God. When you are rescued from death all the angels of heaven dance with delight.
Stop seeking consensus. Stop trying to get the thumbs up. The people around you have no idea what they are doing and they have no permission to give.
Don’t talk to your bishop. She is the head of a lumbering bureaucracy. They have no cavalry to send. They have no solutions to offer.
Don’t wait for your council. Don't let the property team tear apart your vision for the Kingdom of God. Don't let the fearful stifle outreach.
Go and do. Don’t take your hat in hand and beg for a permission slip. Don’t plead with stone walls to allow you to care for God’s creatures. Don’t sit there and listen to some new fangled version of ‘no.’
Go and do. Yes, there will be consequences. Yes, your church may shrink. Yes, you may be fired. Yes, you may be kicked from the roster and forced to manage a Denny's. But these are unprecedented times. The church is collapsing and the only truly reckless option is seeking the safety of doing what has always been done.
So cancel worship on Sundays! Spray the baptized with a water hose. Have adult ed in the backseat of a Geo Metro. Wear your steeple like a hat. It’s time to get crazy. Ignore the gatekeepers. Better, ignore the gate and run into the sea. You can’t make a wrong choice as long as each next step is more foolish than the last.
Go and do. We will follow for we are your people. We are the dry timber in your pews longing for a spark. We are, sincerely,
I had a great conversation with the two bald pastors. We talked about my book, my experience in leaving the ministry and the weirdness of being a pastor. Follow the link to listen:
The wood was too wet for a fire. The air was cool and it was already past dusk so at 7:30 I crawled into my tent for the night. I used my flashlight to read a few lines of scripture but soon the light began to dim. Hoping to save the battery for an emergency, I clicked it off and was startled by the darkness. There was no soft glow from the moon or an electronic device. I waved my arms and could see neither hands nor movement. I found myself in perfect blackness and there I remained, sleeping only occasionally, for the next twelve hours.
In that deep darkness a distant barking became a pack of wolves; a beaver’s tail became a series of gun shots. My mind played tricks. I argued with myself. I fought rising panic. The darkness intensified fear.
In that deep darkness I was the last man alive. There was no comforting presence of a friend, no gentle human sounds. Community, relationships, connection were all far away. The darkness isolated me.
In that deep darkness time crawled to a stop. Hours passed, but slowly. I waited for a dawn that refused to show up. I stared into a blackness for so long I had all but given up hope. The darkness led to despair.
Yet when the light came, shining first on my tent and then on me, the darkness was washed away in an instant. Fear, loneliness, despair were quickly banished by the sun and forgotten. I found myself in God’s perfect creation, beside a still lake reflecting the morning light. Filled with joy, I watched night turned into day.
1 John 1:5-7
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.
Take all the love you have ever received from everyone you have ever known, and include your spouse and children, if applicable. Multiply the total by eternity. Take that total and multiply it by the width of the universe. This is almost how much your God loves you.
Remember this the next time you struggle to get out of bed.