A Message from Ellen 5-9-18
May 10, 2018
I want to begin by thanking Bill Wanamaker, Hartland Mershon and Paul and Jane VanWyke for sharing their experiences of God and of growth in faith last Sunday in worship. If you were not able to attend worship on May 6th, please visit the website and listen to the service. It was moving and powerful and inspiring. Bill, Hart, Paul and Jane all shared their personal experiences with coming to grips with God, loss and suffering, and also with God’s grace and love. They told their stories honestly and simply in ways that directed us all to look to God and called us all to trust God and love one another with more intentionality. Isn’t that what worship is supposed to do?
Church, in general, and worship, in particular, is supposed to be a safe place where we are both free to and supported to share our real selves with God and one another. But, that is often not our experience. Why is that?
First, it can be scary to share our true feelings and experiences. So many people are afraid to share the places in their lives where they struggle. But, I want you to hear me say that I KNOW that if we want community and support then we MUST share our real selves – not our partial, pretend selves. If we only share our partial, pretend selves, then we are not to be surprised or disappointed that the communities of which we are a part are partial and pretend! It can be risky and scary to share our real selves. And, there could be conflict or disagreement as a result of sharing our true selves. But, when we are committed to being subject to the Lordship of Jesus Christ – when we are actively seeking to be transformed – then even conflict can be a very creative tool to change us more into the image of Christ. Conflict is destructive when our goal is to win, destroy another or demand only our way.
Second, we often feel that we are the ONLY ones who are experiencing our particular brand of difficulty or suffering or joy. Often people are private because they are afraid that no one else is like they are, and that others will consider them odd or judge their circumstance. I wish I could tell you how many people came out of worship last Sunday and said, “I know exactly what XX was talking about! That is my experience too!” If you think you are the only one who suffers through addiction, abuse, or mental illness, or that no one else has a child who is in prison or has experience with abuse, then you think that only because you have not yet shared your story. We are – as a family of faith – well acquainted with both joy and sorrow. And the person sitting next to you in the pew knows what it feels like to have an unsolvable situation in their family, just as you do.
I hope that our Celebration of Discipleship Sunday and the powerful and honest stories that were shared will help encourage us to make FLPC a safe place to be real. How do we create spaces where people can connect with each other – not as perfect, partial, pretending people, but as true, imperfect, struggling, faithful and persevering followers of Jesus Christ? Please think about that and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your feedback on our Celebration of Discipleship Sunday. Did their stories point you towards God and help you worship? What was your experience? Should and could we do this sort of service again? And, if one of the stories told on Sunday touched your heart, please reach out and let the storyteller know that their story encouraged your faith journey.
Peace and Grace!
Ellen F. Skidmore