My friend Russell, a preacher, says that every one of us deals, every moment of every day, with great temptation. That temptation is hurting us; that temptation is killing the church.
The temptation he is talking about is probably not what you might think. The temptation he has in mind is the temptation to run from discomfort. Have you noticed that we are afraid of being uncomfortable?
Another preacher I know says that the church often fails to see that the common thread that runs through every congregation is this: EVERYONE IS UNCOMFORTABLE. The pews are mourning benches, he says. Everyone who walks through the doors at the back of our sanctuary is carrying something heavy. Everyone, including the one in the pulpit, is afraid of the discomfort that comes from acknowledging the weight of our failure, the heaviness of our guilt.
Psalm 51 invites us to become uncomfortable so that we might be renewed.
Create in me a clean heart, O God
And renew a right Spirit within me.
This old poet recognizes his sin and asks God to cleanse him from it. That’s not an easy thing to face. Barbara Brown Taylor, in a sermon on repentance, says that we need to recognize and pay attention to our sin. Sin is our only hope, she writes, because the recognition that something is wrong is the first step toward setting it right again.
I’ve often thought about asking the congregation to write on the back of one of the offering envelopes in the pews the worst sin you have ever committed. When everyone finished, I would invite you to pass the slip to your neighbor. There would be an immediate hushed silence, then the room would be filled with uproarious laughter as we realized that everyone one of us was in the same boat.
Uncomfortable? At first, yes. But in that moment of Holy Laughter we would finally be able to embrace the joy of God’s salvation.
Grace and peace to you,