I attended church this weekend for the first time in a long time. As a Spiritual Director and companion to others on their faith journey, that may surprise you. While my reason for not going to church and then going back isn’t important to the story, I think the simplest explanation for my sabbatical is that God has been challenging me to grow in ways that no longer fit what I was learning and experiencing. The God of my understanding was showing me I had made her too small and too timid. It was time to trust and embrace the transformation that continues to challenge and stretch me, and at the same time gives me a sense of peace.
The Custer Community Church congregation is small and very, very welcoming. Before the service I had already been greeted by more people than whose names I can remember. An accomplished organist played traditional hymns as everyone gathered. After a few announcements, Pastor Dustin invited us into a time of guided examen. We paused and reflected on the past week, our blessings and shortcomings, and our hopes for the upcoming week. How has God been present and real to us and where might he be calling us to in the next seven days ahead? Another family in the congregation shared their gift of music, playing guitars, a banjo and harmonica, with a trio leading the singing. I loved it!! While all this is great, the real core of the service lay in the message and what happened afterwards.
Pastor Dustin read from Luke 10:25-37, the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We’ve probably all heard this text many times. You know, the robbers who came upon a man walking alone on the road. How they stripped him of his belongings, beat him and left him to die. The priest and the Levite who see him lying there and pass by on the other side of the road. Why didn’t either of them stop? Did fear hold them back? Were they thinking, “If I stop to help what could happen to me?”
Then a Samaritan comes along. Seemingly, without hesitation, he cleans and bandages the wounds of the injured man, gives him a ride into town, to an inn, where he pays for the beaten man’s care until he is well. Why did the Samaritan stop? Was he not afraid? My guess is he was just as scared. But rather than letting fear hold him back, he asked himself, “If I don’t stop, what will happen to him?” Yes…what will happen to him?
After the sermon, as a congregation, walked across the aisle and stretched across the pews until we were all holding hands…and prayed together and sang together. This isn’t something that was done just this week…but every week. The message and the action were clear and consistent. Then we gathered in the basement fellowship hall for coffee and conversation. Everyone came and everyone had someone to sit with and talk to. Everyone was welcome.
In light of today’s discordant tensions worldwide, this message was significant to me. Prior to Sunday, God has been continually exposing me to situations that remind me I am called to love in action. No. Matter. What. Yes, we “know” we are supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves. But what are we living out? How are we “acting” out love? And is our love action conditional? Or do we accept that we are broken and wounded and in need of love and mercy and grace, and so is everyone else? Just some things to think about as you begin a new week. Make it a good one and…..
If this resonates with you and you’d like to explore more, check out my website and FB page and give me a call. I am available in-person and via video teleconference in the Rapid City, Custer, and Sioux Falls communities. Thank you for checking in.