The huge numbers of millennials lining to the street to go to church there Sunday morning or the relevancy of the message preached...there is something that struck at a very deep level for this progressive Jewish news reporter.
At one point, the reporter hits up Pastor Carl with all the "biggie" issues we tend to fight over and point fingers at sometimes today: abortion, homosexuality, etc.
The following is what really hit me between the eyes:
"He said, "If you sit down with me and you say, 'Carl, I'm having an abortion,' I'm going to say, 'I think that you can have this child. I don't know how hard it is going to be. I could never imagine. I do know my prayer is that God will give you peace to stand on this side with me. Should you choose another option, I will not turn my back on you. I will not vilify you. I will not hate you. I will not, I cannot, live your life. I love you regardless, but my prayer is that somehow, some way, you will see my view on this.' ... It's important to him that everyone is welcome at his church-that homosexuality isn't a different kind of sin to him than, say tithing at percent instead of 10 percent, or gossiping or telling a lie. Everyone should feel welcome at Hillsong."
This is what ministry is all about: passionately loving and walking besides people no matter what. Whether or not they have it all together. Or they make the right choices or not, but to walk along with them in the beauty.joy.pain.suffering.sin of life. I know it sounds simple, and maybe that doesn't sound like much to you. For me it was a prayer in my heart, "Yes Lord, I want to love others like this!" A rallying cry...that this is where the rubber meets the road in living the Christian life.
I remember when I was younger and much more judgmental. I used to think it was better to "know" all the answers and have the perfect response to win or be right. My love for the truth was so backwards because it lacked a true love of my neighbor; the type of love that dares to ask the difficult questions or to really listen with empathy to someone whose beliefs or life experience were the total opposite of mine.
Ministry, being with people in the beautiful mess of life is not easy. It requires vulnerability to go and be with people right where they are, no matter how messy, painful, or awkward it gets. And it always gets messy.
That is the beautiful life-changing power of story we see time and time again in the Gospels.
God in the flesh going to the broken, messed-up, misunderstood people; to listen, love, care, and meet them right in the middle of their mud. Not to be legalistic, but to meet them with truth wrapped in love.
I love Jesus and I love my Catholic faith. Like a lot. I believe both are critical pieces that are helping me become the best version of myself.
One thing I have seen or experienced at times growing up, is the church can be good at naming or identifying sins, but sometimes we (collectively as a body of believers) have royally sucked at walking along with broken, hurting, or misunderstood people. We have been better at saying "Don't do that" or "Be like this" and the message that can come across is "You are loved/accepted only if you make the right choice" or "Only if you follow the rules." No, I'm not saying throw the rules away.
The problem is not with the rules, but the problem is with our hearts. Loving our neighbor means meeting them right they are, this is the work of ministry. Ministry means it will be messy, uncomfortable, and yes awkward. We'll make mistakes and probably say the wrong thing from time to time. Hell I have done plenty of that in my 30 years on earth so far!
There have been far too many times I was judgmental and harsh when I really need to shut up and listen.
I don't want the faith I profess to be a clean, sanitized version of what Jesus calls us to.
What Jesus calls for is radical.
I want to be willing and vulnerable; to meet and love the people God puts in my life right where they are.
So thanks Pastor Carl Lentz (and yes you too Biebs!) for reminding me that ministry is about not being afraid to get messy. Even a recovering good girl like myself needs this reminder from time to time.
P.S. Did I tell you that you should really read this?? ;-)