Remember the Gap: Hanging a Flag on the 4th of July // M-Note 7.5.24

Wednesday, I did something that I have never done. I mounted a flagpole at my house and hung up the American flag in preparation for the 4th of July.  Some of you love the flag. Others of you, not so much. I get it. I had mixed feelings about hanging up the flag. With injustices still pervasive in our country and the broken nature of our politics, there are many who wonder if our country is worth celebrating right now. I feel this, too. I suspect many of you have the same mixed feelings.
 
There is a gap, and always has been, between what our country aspires to be and what it is. There is a gap between our stated values and principles and the lived reality of so many people. There is a gap between what we want our country to be and who we are. I find myself grateful and passionate about the idea of the United States. At the same time, I am often dismayed and angered by the way we fail to live up to who we claim to be. It is hard living in the gap, and working for what we know we can be, what we are called to be. 
 
I have the same love/hate relationship with the church. The idea of church is something I love. I have committed my life to it!  A community that transcends ethnicity, political party, class, gender, race, and nationality. A community where all are equally fallen and yet equally forgiven. A community where the dividing walls of the world fade away and we are all found worthy because of Jesus. A community of mutual challenge, support, and love. A place where people find healing, wholeness, purpose, friendship, redemption, and hope. That is something worth believing in!
 
Yet, let’s be real – church is often just as messed up as our country. Instead of being different, the church is often just as hypocritical, judgmental, unjust, and flawed as the people who make it up. Many of you have experienced churches in the past as places of rejection. Some people find themselves welcomed, while others have felt on the outside looking in. Far from resisting evil and injustice, often the church has perpetrated those same things. Like our country, the church has often failed to live up to its ideals.
 
Yet, I still love it – not for what it often is, but for what it promises to be. So I have committed my life to building the kind of church God imagines, and I believe that work is worth it. I want to create that kind of church. I hope you will help me create it, as well. 
 
This 4th of July weekend, I invite you to remember the gap. There is always a distance between who we are (as individuals, as a country, and as a church) and who we want to be. Don’t ignore the shortcomings and injustices. At the same time, don’t give up on the ideals. Let's continue to believe in what we can be (in our country and in our church) and work to create the kind of place we envision.  

I hope you had a great 4th of July, and don’t forget to join me in worship this weekend.
 
Peace,
Matt
 
P.S. This weekend, I will be starting a new series Hello, I Am…Jesus. We are talking about why Jesus is so important to our faith. Whether you are a long time Christian or brand new to church, this is an important series. It is also a perfect time to invite your friends who are wrestling with religion or curious about church. At the end of the series (July 21), there will be an opportunity for all of us to respond by being baptized or reaffirming our baptism. It is going to be a special month of worship, so don’t miss it!
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