One day at the parade...
This past weekend was Syttende Mai here in Stoughton. It is a great weekend celebrating community and all that makes Stoughton special. My family and I ate our way through town, enjoyed the rosemaling at the firehouse and stopped on Saturday to see the kids parade; thinking the weather would be bad for Sunday's parade.
I know people participate in these events, and make decisions based on who they will see and what they will be doing. (I wore my church t-shirt joyfully!) But this... this was too much. I was embarrassed for our Christian faith. As I stood with our family, all active Christians, we heard people muttering behind us: "...that's not for me... that is stupid... why?... I don't a faith like that..." etc. Shortly after this man walked by, another young person came up with tracts. I was speechless. I watched as they tried to pass these off to young people who had no idea what they were preaching. I was too embarrassed to be angry. These are the very people that give our faith a bad name. The people they were trying to reach for Jesus are the very people that I want to connect with on a daily basis. Yet, the damage has been done. Some of these folks will never set foot in a church.
This is something that we all have to live with an awareness of everyday. When we claim a faith as a Christian, there is a stigma that comes with it. The world expects us to... well, the world expects us to be this guy because the "good" guys don't make the news. What makes the news is the street corner preacher to attempts to "scare" people into faith. For that, I am so sorry. I repent of my own shortfalls and growing edges. I repent that was not aware enough in this moment to do something about it.
Our United Methodist Church has had a very similar experience. We witnessed as our General Conference back in February began waving a big "repent" sign to the world, most specifically to our LGBTQI siblings in faith. I'm embarrassed (to be Methodist at times.) I'm angry (at the limits placed on my potential opportunities for ministry). I'm sad (for all the lives that will never know Jesus like I do because of this). I grieve for the people called Methodist. There was so much good that we could've done together! As someone said in worship this morning, "what have we done!?!?"
We didn't do anything. Signs like those are not of my faith. They are not of the faith of our local church in Stoughton. (I do not believe that they are the signs of our Wesleyan roots either.) The people that make up the body of Christ at the Methodist Church in Stoughton are people who love Jesus and show it by our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Ask us. We will tell you how wonderful it is to know Jesus like we do. Our desire is for all people to know Jesus as the bread of life, the source of living water, as the one who died so that we might live. We believe in a salvation grounded in love not fear. We believe in our great God who seeks to reconcile all to God's self through Jesus and our relationship with him.
One day at a parade...
the streets were lined with joy, anticipation and pride
but then came along that one guy
looks of questioning, concern and really?
why couldn't this day be easy?
one day at a parade and a lifetime of missed opportunity
thank God that grace abounds despite some guy who tried to be scary
"yes, I know I will die someday"
"I don't want to go your way."
one day at a parade, songs were sung, dancers moved, bands performed
one day at church, well, the possibilities are endless with Jesus as Lord
faith is bigger than fear
may all draw near
one day at a parade, in the park, at the grocery store, in the pews....