Be a Blessing: Have Courage

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For the last few months, there’s been a conversation going on in our community—in our school district—about how our schools should talk to our kids about… y’know… sex.

There are some folks in our community who believe that it is each parent’s responsibility to teach their kids about the birds and the bees and the educated fleas; and that the school’s only job on this particular topic is to teach one lesson: do not have sex until you are married. Period. Here endeth the lesson.

And there are other folks in our community who believe that it is each parent’s responsibility to teach their kids about the birds and the bees and the educated fleas. And that the school should also teach about those things. Because there’s a lot to talk about… and parents aren’t always the best at talking about those things… and, sometimes, kids and teenagers and young adults listen to their teachers.

And a couple of weeks ago… there was a meeting… with the school board.

There were a lot of people there from the first group fo folks. And they told the school that parents in our community are doing a fine job of talking to you kids about… y’know… sex… thankyouverymuch. And they told the school that the school could just stick to that one lesson: do not have sex until you are married. Period.

And there were a few people—including some people from this congregation—from the second group of folks. And they told the school that some parents in our community are doing a find job of talking to our kids about… y’know… sex. And they told the school that the school was also doing a fine job of talking to our kids about sex. And that robust, comprehensive, medically accurate, scientifically grounded education around that delicate topic is important.

And I respect both sides of this debate. I agree with one side more than the other; but I respect both. And I believe that the people who came to that meeting, and stood up, and spoke to the board and to the people—regardless of which side they were on—did a brave thing.

Because I have been there. I have stood in front of a crowd of people… when I was sure that many of them—or even most of them—disagreed with me… dry-mouthed and shaking even if the people in that crowd couldn’t see it… and spoken about what I believed in.

And that is a brave thing to do. It takes courage.

Today, we are continuing our summer sermon series about being a blessing; about leading with love, praying often, and practicing peace; about giving thanks and being joyful and being kind; about doing good and having courage and working for justice; about being the light and encouraging others; about how these are wall ways of being blessed and ways of being a blessing.

Today, we are talking about doing brave things. Today, we are talking about having courage.

And today, we are hearing a psalm. Today, we’re hearing a song. Today, we’re hearing the kind of thing that you might say quietly to yourself right before you stand up for what you believe in.

I am surrounded by enemies. Adversaries assail me and foes reach out to devour me. An army is right there and war itself has risen up against me. So I will sing to the Lord… because God is my light and my salvation, my refuge and my strength. Fear? I don’t believe I know the word. Fear? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of the thing.

Today we’re hearing the kind of thing that you might say quietly to yourself right before you stand up… dry-mouthed and shaking… and speak about what you believe in.

Because here’s the thing about courage:

Courage is not about the absence of fear. As much as we might pretend that we don’t know the word—as much as we might pretend that we’ve never heard of the thing—courage is about what we do when we are afraid. 

Courage is about what we do when we see that there is something greater than fear; something more important than fear; something holier than fear.

Courage is about the having the willingness to triumph over fear for the sake of that vision.

Fear? Yeah, I’ve heard of the thing. Fear? Yeah, I know the thing. Fear? Yeah, it walks right beside me. But God is my light and my salvation, my refuge and my strength. And I have thought and I have considered and I have studied and I have prayed. And I believe that I am on God’s side. So I’m gonna do the thing anyway.

Having courage—seeing the vision of what could be on the other side of fear, and then working through that fear—is hard.

I know. Because as many times as I have stood in front of a crowd of people… when I was sure that many of them—or even most of them—disagreed with me… dry-mouthed and shaking even if the people in that crowd couldn’t see it… and spoken about what I believed in…

…as many times as I have done that… there have been many more times when… y’know… I haven’t.

There have been many more times when I have anticipated the people who disagree with me staring me down. There have been many more times when I have imagined that the mighty would force me to bow down anyway. There have been many more times when I have fallen to the fear and faded into the background.

And called it restraint… or prudence… or choosing my battles… or keeping the peace.

And, sometimes, that’s okay. And, sometimes, it’s not.

And I’m going to be honest with you. I think that there are times when we—as a church, as a community of faith, as followers of Christ—do the same thing.

I think that there are times when we anticipate the words that people will say… or we imagine the that people will get mad… and we fall to the fear and fade into the background… because it seems safer there.

And we call it respecting every point of view… or being moderate and mainline… or welcoming everyone.

And, sometimes, that’s okay. And, sometimes, it’s not. And, sometimes, it’s just too bad.

Because I am sure that there are people in our community who are frightened of something. I am sure that there are people in our community who are scared of someone. i am sure that there are people in our community who are staying the background because it seems safer there.

And I’m sure that there are people in our community—folks in our neighborhoods, kids in our school district, people in our city—who are waiting for someone to have courage… who are waiting for someone to show courage… who are waiting for someone to stand up for them.

And that could be us. Because we have a vision.

We are a people who worship and welcome; who serve and grow; who make space for each other and call each other toward greater wholeness in God…

…who lead with love and pray often; who practice peace and give thanks; who spread joy and embody kindness; who do good and work for justice; who light the way and encourage others…

…who strive to be the hands of Christ in this world… and nurture his kingdom in this world…

…a kingdom where everyone is welcome and where everyone is celebrated and where everyone can find a home…

…and where everyone includes… y’know… everyone.

It includes the middle schooler who is afraid to tell their parents who they like like. It includes the high schooler who isn’t sure that their body matches who they are. It includes folks who are practicing abstinence, and folks who are choosing not to, and folks who didn’t have the choice. It includes anyone who is afraid that they just don’t fit in.

And I know that it’s hard to share that vision. I know that it’s hard to stand up in front of people… when we’re sure that many of them—or even most of them—disagree with us… dry-mouthed and shaking… and say that out loud.

But God is our light and our salvation, our refuge and our strength. And we have thought and considered and studied and prayed. And we know that we are on God’s side, because we know that God calls us to love just as God has loved us… we know that the fruit of love is good fruit…

…and we know that courage is what we have when we are afraid, and we do the thing anyway.

So I guess what I’m saying is let’s do the thing, even if it’s scary. Let’s love recklessly. Let’s live lives that are wild and dangerous and full of grace. Publicly. For all to see. So that all can see the goodness of God and find shelter in their love.

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