Mind The Gap // M-Note 6.6.2019
Yesterday, I celebrated the 4th of July with my family in what has now become a tradition. We went to our community parade, hung out poolside with some friends, and then our kids went off to watch fireworks. In the lead up to the 4th of July, I heard several folks expressing mixed feelings about “celebrating” the day or hanging up the flag. With injustices still pervasive in our country and the recent humanitarian concerns at the border, there are many who wonder if our country is worth celebrating right now. This has often been true throughout our history. No matter what side of the aisle you are on, there have been actions of our government that are not worth celebrating, lifting up, or giving thanks for (even if we do argue about which actions those might be). I suspect many of you observed the 4th of July this year with some of those same feelings. I know I did.
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. Therefore, I find myself loving our country, while at the same time being angered by it. But I know this. My anger and dismay about many of our country’s injustices, policies, or decisions doesn’t keep me from the belief that what our country stands for is good, right, and worth pursuing. Freedom from oppression, equality, democracy, liberty, and justice for all – these are things I believe in and I celebrate. These ideals are also exactly why I get angry when we fail to live up to them (especially the “for all” part).
This gap between who we are and who we want to be got me thinking about church. I have the same love/hate relationship with the church. The idea of church is something I love. In fact, 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 community where Jesus is Lord, and all personal preferences and disagreement find their resolution in him. A community in which people find healing, wholeness, purpose, friendship, redemption, and hope. That is a community that is worth pursuing and believing in.
Yet let’s be real – church is often just as messed up as our country or world. Instead of the picture above, church is often hypocritical, judgmental, unjust, and just as flawed as the people who make it up. Many of you have experienced church in the past as places of rejection. Cliques form just as easily in the church, and people are treated differently depending on a whole host of factors. Some people find themselves welcomed, while others have felt on the outside looking in. Far from resisting evil and injustice, often times 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.
This 4th of July, 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. Instead, with a clear vision for what can and should be, I pray that we celebrate and at the same time commit ourselves to everyday closing the gap between what is and what should be. That is true for us as people, us as a country, and for us as a church.
I hope you have a great weekend, and don’t forget to join me in worship this weekend.
p.s. This weekend, I will be starting a new series on the Book of Acts called Accidental Influencers: One Follower At a Time. As we learn about the early movement of the church, we are going to cast vision for who The Gathering is called to be today. It is the perfect opportunity to invite someone to check out our church, so I hope you will invite someone to join you.