Pastor Ed has written a moving letter to all of us, straight from his heart, calling everyone to action to “go be the church…the real church. The authentic church. The church Jesus had in mind. Repent. Confess. Humble ourselves. Forgive. Love. Hope. Trust. Let us turn to Christ for the strength we don’t have. He has it.” We share his letter with all below:
An Open Letter To The Congregation of WMPC
October 3, 2017
Dear Church Family,
Family……… I don’t use that term lightly these days; family is important to me and I know it’s important to you all as well. I felt the strong need to connect with my church family this week in the wake of recent current events, so I’m writing to you all in a letter. I’m struggling friends; I’m struggling this week with the tones of tragedy in the news and on the radio. There seems to be so much angst. I drove to work the other morning to the sounds of the news feed playing on the radio as DJ’s were trying to explain so much chaos that is happening in our world. Some stations used their platform to talk through the tragedy and process the news, other stations played music and tried to maintain a sense of normalcy. It was and has been almost sensory overload with the news of Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Catalonia, Nashville Tennessee and so many other places and issues, and yet I turn it on and I listen to hear the latest information or explanation.
I had the opportunity to speak at a Greenway Summit this week in Durham and many of the speakers and attendees referenced various local, state, national and world issues. Hearing of all this news almost makes you want to shut down and crawl in a hole until it’s all over. Or perhaps you might say, “Well, I’ll wake up in a minute and I’ll realize that it was all a bad dream; everything’s okay.”
Events like the one that happened this week in Las Vegas are happening far too frequently, far too often. I hope and pray that it will stop and just go away. My heart is broken for the families and victims of such violence. It’s hard for me to process it all. It just seems senseless.
When I go to the movies with Kathy or friends and other family, I look at the exit doors with a renewed sense of awareness. When I attend a large event in downtown Raleigh, I make sure to be aware of my surroundings and of those that are with me. I was always taught to be aware of my present surroundings but not like I do nowadays. Is this the new normal? I don’t want it to be. I don’t want to live in that kind of fear or uncertainty.
So, I’m writing you all a letter. (Emailing actually)
This letter is a way for me to process what many of you may be processing as well. What do we do in the midst of all of this uncertainty? How do we deal with all of these issues and continue in our daily coursings of work, family and Church? Life? How do we respond as individuals, as families, as a church family?
Well, my recommendation is to open a strong conversation with God and pray. Talk to God even if you don’t know what to say, He can handle it. I know I trust on that myself. Sometimes those prayers are in the form of words but often times they may be in the form of tears or shouts or cries, or even silence; yes, God can even hear us in the silence of our lives.
I realize that some of the events that are happening in our world are naturally occurring and other events are not, but in a time of our history such as this week and last month, how do we as Christians respond to each other and our neighbors?
There is no magic pill or perhaps single response that can fix it all and make it all go away. We live in a sound bite world but there is no one sound bite that speaks to all of this in one info-mercial.
But here are some reflections which I hope and pray can be helpful for you and me and our church.
What you do is important. And how you respond, in the small and the large things, matters so much.
These are inspired from reading Carey Nieuwhof – Thoughts on How to Be the Church in An Age of Terror and Tragedy:
- What the church is doing is more important, not less important
This is the time to be the church, because what Christians have to offer is a radically different ethic and alternative to hatred and violence. The Gospel is a needed ethic in our culture. We can debate parts of the scripture all we want, but one thing that is undeniable is that Jesus said that his followers would be known by their love. This is what we at WMPC need to be known for. Love.
Our families need this love. Victims of violence and hatred need this love. Perpetrators need this love. Our children need this love. The Gospel moves us to love. So what we’re doing this Sunday and all the Sunday’s that follow, not just in response to what happened but in advance of what might happen next, is so important.
Our culture needs the love found in Jesus more than ever. What we’re doing next weekend matters more than you realize. As the Gospel spreads from person to person, life to life, community to community, nation to nation, we are transformed. I beg of you to live the love of Christ like you were changing the world. Because you are.
- Confession and humility are more important than ever
Confession and humility are increasingly rare, and yet they are two characteristics of Christianity that run to the core of our faith. The opposite of confession is blame…and that’s an instinctive reaction most of us have, including me. Lack of humility pushes people (and nations and denominations and ….) into stand-offs that deepen the divide and escalate the ruin. We need to repent, turn deliberately towards Christ. We need to pray, and repent, and carry deep inside of us the knowledge that we too are broken. We too need a Savior, grace and forgiveness. That posture can’t change everything, but it will change more than you think. It can deeply alter the dynamic and dialogue at a micro-level. When the micro-dialogue and the micro-dynamics changes, it is only a matter of time until the macro changes.
- Faith is a dividing line that ultimately can become a uniting line
The reality, of course, is that if we’re a Christian, there’s no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ There is only an ‘us’ and ‘us.’ The early church realized that when Jew and Gentile, slave and free, men and women and every ethnic nation imaginable came together under Christ. It was tremendously radical then. It will be just as radical now.
We live in an age where faith is increasingly seen as divisive and extreme. Yet Christianity, is ultimately unifying because it ultimately unites radically different people groups under the love of God that is in Jesus Christ.
- The only ethic that will ever work is the ethic of love
The only ethic that will ultimately work against hate is love. And no one should be more loving than those forgiven in Christ.
- Christians lay down their lives in the face of evil
That when Jesus himself was hated enough to be unjustly tortured and killed, he willingly gave his life. He didn’t fight back. He didn’t even enter a defense at his trial. In fact, he did something more profound than defending himself, he forgave his torturers. Actually, it went deeper than that. The very act his captors used to kill Jesus is the act Jesus would later use to extend to them forgiveness and salvation.
Clinging to grace, forgiveness and love is what is important to us these days.
- External regulations cannot change internal values
What changes hearts? The Gospel. Love. Christ. When a heart is transformed, its value system is transformed. Forgiveness dissolves anger. Love dissolves hate. As a result, a person’s value system changes. This is where the hope is. This is where the key to the future lies. So how does that love gain a foothold in a culture threatened with hate? The way people will discover what love is, is when they meet a
Christian who behaves like an actual Christian.
And that means that this begins with you and with me.
You may have never met a terrorist. But the truth is, there are people you don’t like, and probably a few that you even hate. That’s where we start. Forgive someone you actually know.
And then when it comes to adding your voice to the public dialogue on social media or in private conversations, don’t fuel hate to people groups and other religions…instead, extend love. Don’t get caught up in complaining about what is happening in the world, or in the state or locally or even at the church itself – be the change that you want to see in others. Love one another. The most radical thing you can do today is to extend love in the face of hate. Act out of kindness and love, not out of fear and uncertainty. It will require all you have. In fact, you will probably not be able to do it. You may actually need a Savior to help. Which is exactly the point. So go be the church…
So let’s go be the church…the real church. The authentic church. The church Jesus had in mind. Repent. Confess. Humble ourselves. Forgive. Love. Hope. Trust. Let us turn to Christ for the strength we don’t have. He has it.
What we’re doing this week matters more than ever.
Thank you for reading this and letting me work this out with you all in thought, word and hope-filled deed. I personally invite you to come to church; come to love and be loved. We have a lot going on at White Memorial – Willow Spring and lots of love to share. I look forward to seeing you all there this Sunday and the next, and the next, and the next…….
Grace, Peace and Forgiveness be with you and your families.