You'll have to bear with me, I have a lot on my heart. Many have left our church in recent months, some as recently as this month. Many of these men and women were my friends, some of my dearest friends. It has hurt to watch them go. In some cases, I even knew that that they believed that they were going to a place that was better for them, but it still hurts. It hurts because I know I'll miss them. It hurts because I know my church will be less for them not being here. It hurts because I had a dream for this church to be God's church, a beacon of light for Columbus. With every person that leaves, that dream gets harder and harder to believe in.
I feel so in adequate to change things, to make our church better so no one else will leave. It seems like an overwhelming task, far over my head. Who am I to make a change? Who am I to make a difference? I am not a Biblical scholar, by a long shot. I don't know how to run a church, to make it the best. Why do I think that I could?
There are times that the urge to run away is great. I simply can't imagine stemming the tide, making a difference. I can't accomplish it, so I don't want the responsibility. I just want to give up.
Sometimes to give up means I want to run and hide. I'll leave too, go somewhere else. Where? I don't know, somewhere where I'm not reminded of my inadequacies, my inability to make a change, my lack of influence. Somewhere where it doesn't hurt to be there.
Sometimes to give up means to really give up. I'm just not cut out for Christianity, or maybe it was all a pipe dream anyway, a foolish fantasy.
Sometimes to give up means to just play church. I'll be there, I'll sing the songs, I'll write my check, I'll show up, but I won't give myself. It hurts to give my heart. What am I giving to? Why bother? I want to resign from all responsibility and just fade to the shadows where I can be safe. This is the way that wins at times. I do enough to get by, but no more. This way is so, so easy take.
As I tried to think of a lesson to give, these are the things that are on my heart. I thought I'd just go to Mark 15, the next chapter in the church's study in Mark and see if I could just do a lesson on that, since what was on my heart did not seem fit to share. As I read about Jesus before Pilate, the soldiers, the chief priests, the crowd it all seemed so foreign to me, so distant from what I was feeling.
Then it hit me. One by one, these folks left Jesus. First the 12 who had stood by him, marveled at him and lived by his side for 3 years fled, nearly denying they even knew his name. The government, never on his side but not totally against him either, turned a blind eye and let the evil intent of the religious leaders have its way. Then the crowd, just a few days earlier welcoming him into the city like the savior and hero he was, now shouted for his death and asked for a murderer instead. The soldiers laughed at him and even one of the criminals with him ridiculed him. Ultimately, even God his father turned his back on Jesus, leaving him all alone to die on a cross.
In all of this Jesus did not flinch from his desire to honor God with his life. He would do God's will, even if no one cared. He would not be denied His chance to honor God, nothing would stand in his way.
Now, I'm not Jesus nor is our church perfect. And certainly those who left are not Judases, Pilates or criminals. But as I thought about Jesus and what he went through and I thought about my discouragement I found hope. I found I could feel just a little bit of Jesus' pain as he approached the cross. I could relate to some amount of his sufferings. Certainly his pain was greater. More was at stake and more could be lost. And at least I could count on the fact that God would not be turning his back on me. It was here that I found hope. I also found a little bit of conviction. If our Lord was faced with this kind of hurt on a level far above what I am experiencing and found the determination to do God's will anyway, so could I. Somehow I can rise above the hurt and live as a Christian should.
Brothers and sisters, that's what we must do or Satan has won. Frankly, I feel that this is just what we have not done overall as a church. It feels as though we have just been playing church, I know that at times I have. We've allowed our hurt, our pain, our disillusionment to distract us from that which we committed ourselves to. We've gone about our lives, ignoring the good we could do and our church, God's church, suffers for it. We've all been hurt over this past year and I will not dismiss that or make light of it. We need to be able to grieve and to heal. But if we allow our hurts to make us numb, if our pain keeps us from doing the good we ought to do – as, if we were honest with ourselves, it has – shame on us. Let's think about Jesus and what he endured on his way to the cross this week as we go through our lives and think about what's stopping us from doing what good we can.