Road of the King–October 27, 2011

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About four or five miles outside of King, North Carolina, is a little United Methodist Church where I’ve spent my past two days sharing with salt-of-the-earth citizens while adding my particular sprinkle of pepper. The experience was rich. People are always a little hesitant to embrace strangers for fear of contracting some sort of social leprosy or actually absorbing a new idea or two. But once you get past the initial shock of physical appearance and survive the great bathing of curiosity, you can get down to the realities of person-to-person.

Unfortunately, two of the greater forces in our society–religion and politics–always fail to deliver us from true evil. They manufacture enemies for us to despise or attack in an attempt to keep our minds off the real problem. And that dilemma would be our inability as a species to deal with our own problems, preferring to pick at the sores and scabs of others.

As I’ve taken a magnifying glass to inspect my innards more frequently, I have discovered that I have much less time to examine yours. It is a good thing. So as I leave my new friends in King (or actually rural King, NC), I impart three different thoughts to them–great barometers to measure whether what they believe and do is really on the right track with the mind of Jesus, or just a bunch of religious rhetoric and political poo-poo.

Let me begin it by saying, “You know you’re on the right path when …”

1.  Children are welcome and encouraged to understand. Somehow or another we forget that children are going to spend most of their lives as adults. If we let them walk around believing they don’t need to understand the truth, they can carry their childish attitudes into the grown-up world and become both obnoxious and useless. Sometimes we think that childhood is only about soccer balls, video games and parties, with a little schoolwork thrown in on the side. Now soccer is great exercise, some video games can be entertaining, everybody loves a party and I certainly have nothing against the pursuit of knowledge. But I think children need to know they’re heading towards a world of responsibility, which they need to both understand and enjoy. Otherwise, you have bratty kids who are going to become frustrated adults. Now, most twelve-year-old children think church is boring, old people are boring, and Jesus is both church AND old, and therefore boring. It is a huge mistake. Every kid should walk out of church with a smile on his face and an idea in his head. Pastor, if they’re doing that, you’ve reached the old ones, too.

2.  Joy should always be established. Joy is a great two-pronged blessing. It is feeling good about what just happened while simultaneously knowing that if it never happens again, you’re still going to be all right. Joy is happiness mingled with the understanding that being giddy is not always possible–but happiness never has to leave. It is the knowledge that we are never forsaken. It is the great information that we matter.  And it is the realization that because we matter, the person sitting next to us does too.

3. And finally, every church service should holler with glee that faith is admired. We need to stop reciting things so much and instead, need to live out a fruitful life, which gives us reason to testify.  Stop expecting people to believe. Belief is a lot harder to achieve than most ministers preach. Faith demands that I walk away from a lot of things I’m seeing towards a bunch of stuff that appears to be invisible at this present moment. That’s tough. But if I’m not walking towards possibility, I’m walking away from opportunity and leaping into disappointment. Faith should be admired. When we see people standing on their own two feet, even though they’re a little wobbly, we should come and put an arm around them and tell them how we admire their bravery. Unfortunately, we’re too busy trying to find all the right answers instead of taking advantage of each and every moment.

Most of the things being debated in our society–that folks are so sure they know the right answers to–I often am not even certain that I comprehend the question. Here’s what I do know.  Faith is necessary for me to get out of my circumstances. My circumstances are often of my own making, but God has granted me grace and forgiven me. And that forgiveness is contingent on me loving people–whether I like them or not.

That’s right. I don’t have to like you to love you.Liking you means I would look forward to an opportunity to share dinner and conversation with you. Loving you means that I’m going to get out of your way and let you have a good life so you can find somebody better than me to eat dinner with and have conversation. So that’s it, King. I love you.  And guess what? I even like you.

But take a  look in the faces of your children to see if your beliefs are working. And make sure you never get together without joy being established. And when you see faith in yourself and other people, step back and applaud and shout hallelujah. Those three things right there will set you apart from the mediocre politicians and the picky religionists.

I hope to see you again. And I know if we pursue these things together, there certainly will be a great meeting place.

***************

Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

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