When staff and leadership were first discussing doing a sermon series on Core Values, I was pumped. One of the reasons I love this church so much is because of the core values held.
- Jesus is Lord
- Everyone is Welcome
- Relationships Matter More Than Anything
- Love Changes People
- Everyone has Gifts to Share
- We want everyone to experience the grace we’ve received.
These are powerful. These values embodied will change the world. I truly believe that. I believe living the Gospel, embodying the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that will change and heal the world. And I believe it is our duty as followers of Jesus to be that change in the world…to be the embodiment of Jesus in the world.
Afterall, is that not what we are called to? Paul speaks of the Church as the Body of Christ, with Christ as the Head (Jesus as Lord and Commander).
12 Just as the human body is one, though it has many parts that together form one body, so too is Christ.[t] 13 For by one Spirit we all were immersed and mingled into one single body.[u] And no matter our status—whether we are Jews or non-Jews, oppressed or free—we are all privileged to drink deeply of the same Holy Spirit.[v]
14 In fact, the human body is not one single part but rather many parts mingled into one. 15 So if the foot were to say, “Since I’m not a hand, I’m not a part of the body,” it’s forgetting that it is still a vital part of the body. 16 And if the ear were to say, “Since I’m not an eye, I’m not really a part of the body,” it’s forgetting that it is still an important part of the body.
17 Think of it this way. If the whole body were just an eyeball, how could it hear sounds? And if the whole body were just an ear, how could it smell different fragrances? 18 But God has carefully designed each member and placed it in the body to function as he desires.[w] 19 A diversity is required, for if the body consisted of one single part, there wouldn’t be a body at all! 20 So now we see that there are many differing parts and functions, but one body.
21 It would be wrong for the eye to say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” and equally wrong if the head said to the foot, “I don’t need you.” 22 In fact, the weaker our parts, the more vital and essential they are.[x] 23 The body parts we think are less honorable we treat with greater respect. And the body parts that need to be covered in public we treat with propriety and clothe them. 24 But some of our body parts don’t require as much attention. Instead, God has mingled the body parts together, giving greater honor to the “lesser” members who lacked it. 25 He has done this intentionally so that every member would look after the others with mutual concern, and so that there will be no division in the body. 26 In that way, whatever happens to one member happens to all. If one suffers, everyone suffers. If one is honored, everyone rejoices 1 Corinthians 12: 12-26).
I love our core values. But we have a long way to go to embodiment….myself included.
I originally chose to teach on Relationships Matter Over Anything, as this is the core foundational theology of my doctoral dissertation (I have developed an entire theology of healing called “Rooted Restoration” centered on the foundational understanding that we were created to live in right relationship: with God, with self, with others, with creation. Sin is best understood then, as anything that breaks down one of these core relationships).
I was really excited to teach on that. Finally I could speak and teach as the well-polished public speaker I have been trained to be, as I have made this presentation numerous times in my professional life (afterall I love you guys and am new here, and am prone to do a little peacocking as l like to call it when I’m trying to win over someone’s affections…and I know I’m a great public speaker. Painful truth for me to own, but true none the less. I like to be liked, much to my detriment sometimes).
But I’m not called here to be great. As much as I am great at my calling, I am not called to be great. My greatness is found in my weakness, in my mess, in my places of greatest shame and trial and defeat. For those are the places Christ is most known in my story. Those are the places the grace of God thrives.
Wouldn’t it figure then that a need to switch Sundays would arise and I would find myself teaching/leading on Love Changes People and I find myself invited to share a story I have never publically shared before… the story of the past seven years of deconstruction in my life. The story of healing from church abuse and need to leave the church and the love and grace I have received here at CLC and how it is changing me and making me a better woman. And while that sounds lovely, it feels horrible. Because to accept your love means I have to lay down my hate. But hate is real. And sometimes in this cruel world it feels like the only way to survive and find strength.
But hate won’t change anything.
Love changes things. Love changes people.
The love of this church has healed in me in more ways than I can share in a short space and time. I hope we have many years together to grow in love and witness the transformation love brings into our personal and communal lives, and that I have opportunities like I will when I teach this sermon to share with you all how you have changed me.
But to share that love, to bring you into the understanding, I have to bring you into the depravity of where I was…the brokenness and shambles my life was in…the horrible ways I used to embody the opposite of love. You have to see the ashes if you are to understand the beauty, otherwise the beauty of it might be missed, to the detriment of us all. And the ashes need to be heard because we need to talk about our brokenness if we are going to heal it.
Life is messy. It’s time we roll up our sleeves and get messy church…starting with us. Starting with our own stories and voices and lives, so that we can invite others outside of our community into the grace we are all receiving and have received.
I am called here to help youth and emerging adults know, love, embody the Spirit of, and follow Jesus in this life and empower and equip them in their Creator ordained calling...and if they don't want that, then I simply want to teach them how to navigate this hard, difficult world. The second leading cause of death in the United States for ages 14-23 is suicide. That reality has to stop. So even if they have no interest in learning about Jesus and God (which if you have met or heard me, is central to my life so comes up in everything for me and they know this), I want them to have a space where they know they are loved and are able to grow and develop fully into who they are. I want them to experience love, grace, mercy, acceptance, value, worth, goodness, beauty, change, growth and everything good this world has to offer, even if for some reason there is a barrier to know Jesus or Creator....that to me does not hinder my want for them to know they are loved and cared for...and while I want them to know how big and deep and wide love is, that is a choice they get to make. I can only choose for me.
My choice for all humans is love. Because love is the only thing that healed or saved me in this world. Love changes people. And it starts with us. Are we ready to get messy in love?