To the Church I love, that welcomed me, that formed me, that supported me, that affirms me. To the Church that again and again is “Jesus with skin on” for me:
I write with tears in my eyes as I think upon all the ways you have loved me. You took me in when I felt alone and unloved. You showed me what it means to be community, even when I was so bad at it. You have been a resting place, a learning place, and a place that I have trusted to raise my family.
Yet, even in all the good I see that has come from you, I also know that we are still on a path to perfection. Sometimes, Church, we look too often to what makes us feel good and comfortable, and we overlook the pain and the hurt of others (sometimes that we have caused). We often bring our best selves into worship, asking God to bless what we show. Instead, we need to bring our entire selves into worship, asking the Holy Spirit to renovate us. We need to be authentic with God, self, and others. It is in that authenticity that we often find the true blessings of God.
And Church, as much as I have seen you walk with me in some of the messy parts of life, it seems that we only do that when it still seems safe, when people are enough like us that we don’t have to reach too far to touch them. But what about those that live outside the reach of our normal day, our normal life style? What about the modern day lepers that are forced out of the good neighborhoods and forced to live in their own separate communities, being sustained by what people are willing to drop off for them to pick up, or what they can steal so they don’t die? Jesus walked among them too, so how can we be “Jesus with skin on” now in the lives of those who seem so different that us that we pretend we can’t see or reach them?
And like Jesus did with so many, how can we offer the blessing of a loving relationship to those that have not been invited?
Because I know that God still works in the world, that the Holy Spirit still moves and transforms. I know that, in Christ, we have the power to set aside our own need for comfort in order to bring comfort and hope and love to those who feel alone and pushed out and unwanted. God still loves us. Jesus is still risen. The Holy Spirit is still with us. We must trust these things to be true and live in the faith that they are. I still believe in the power of the Jesus that you taught me to love and trust. I still believe that the Church is the Bride of Christ. I still believe that we are all a part of the Body of Christ, necessary, and lacking when we are missing those parts we deem less important than others. I still believe that God is using you and me and the community of faith to love those that feel beyond the reach of love.
God is still using us, Church. God is still asking us to trust and follow and obey. God is still calling us to build community along this journey of faith, inviting people into relationship, and showing what it means to be a follower of Christ.
My prayer is that we will heed the invitation and the call that has always been before us, and that with the power of the Holy Spirit, we will see a glimpse of the Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven.