Thursday, September 30, 2010

Awakened vs. transformed

Awhile ago I came up with yet another statement to try to capture what our church was about - be it a mission statement, vision statement, or whatever (I always did have a hard time keeping straight which was which)... Anyway, I just wanted something to sort of describe, or give direction to, what we were looking for; what we were after. I thought something along the lines of being a place where "people could be TRANSFORMED by Christ, MATURING in their faith, and being a BLESSING to others" sounded good. But... then I heard that "transformed" is too churchy of a word, and had all sorts of negative connotations and whatnot. So I've been trying to think of an alternative to "transformed."

Seriously, I don't know that there is a perfect word to use for what Christ can do for us. I am toying with substituting "AWAKENED to Christ" though; or "coming alive to Christ," or something like that. Because, really, I think that's more what becoming a Christian is... I believe we are born with that possibility (maybe even propensity), but then again, I am no theologian. But I remember when I "came alive" to who Jesus is, and it really did transform my life. It changed everything (and still is).

But, you know, as I type it out; and try to put it into a sermon, or a newsletter of sorts... it just seems like it doesn't really matter much what we say unless we really care about other people. But it's a thought.

Along those same lines, I remembered this story from James Bryan Smith's awesome book An Arrow Pointing To Heaven, which is a biography about Rich Mullins. In it, Mullins shares this story (which I've used in sermons):
I remember one time Beaker and I were hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and he met some friends of his, so I walked into town. It was about a five-mile walk from the campsite down the trail... down into town. And when I got there I went into a restaurant and I was having a steak, and this guy started talking to me and we had this great conversation. We were having a good time, and he said, "Hey look, it's dark and it's five miles up the road to your campground. Why don't I drive you up there?"

And I said, "Hey, great!"

And so we got in his car, and just as we pulled out from under the last light in that town, the guy said, "You know what, I should probably tell you that I'm gay."

And I say, "Oh! I should probably tell you that I am a Christian."

And he said, "Well, if you want out of the car..."

I said, "Why?"

And he said, "Well, I'm gay and you're a Christian."

I said, "It's still five miles and it's still dark."

Then he said, "I thought Christians hated gays."

I said, "That's funny, I thought Christians were supposed to love. I thought that was our first command."

He said, "Well, I thought God hated gays."

And I said, "That's really funny, because I thought God was love."

And then he asked me the big one. He said, "Do you think I will go to hell for being gay?"

Well, I'm a good Hoosier, and I puckered up to say, "Yes, of course you'll go to hell for being gay." I got ready to say that, but when I opened up my mouth it came out, "No, of course you won't go to hell for being gay." And I thought to myself, Oh my God, I've only been in New Hampshire for one week and I've already turned into a liberal! What am I going to tell this guy now?

Then I said to him, "No, you won't go to hell for being gay, any more than I would go to hell for being a liar. Nobody goes to hell for what they do. We go to hell because we reject the grace that God so longs to give us, regardless of what we do."

I always liked that story.

Peace out, folks; and in.