Yesterday, I stood in worship with my church praying and pleading and praising the Lord for our small gifts, our little baskets of five loaves and two fish, our lunch money, being given at the foot of our King. Around me, my fellow church members stood, hands open, ready to give of their little and trusting God to transform it into much. Our gifts at that moment sacrificially offered to the restorative work being done in south Texas after Harvey. All of us so aware of our abundance of warm homes and dry beds and pantries of food and gratefully worshiping through our dimes and nickels and single dollar bills.
We’re a ragtag group of folks if there ever was one.
Not a single one of us looks the same. Different colors and languages and backgrounds. Next to me, once a prisoner but now a free man, his tattooed arms sticking out of his starched and immaculately pressed shirt. In the empty seat between us, he arranged his bible filled with pages and pages of underlined scripture just so with his phone directly, aligned above. His pen on the left, the note cards in our seats above the phone. Every single item straight and orderly matching his pressed shirt. I witnessed his baptism not long ago.
In front of us, a sweet couple expecting their first child, a daughter. The husband gives good, hearty handshakes and while he’s standing in worship I can read the words on his tee shirt that say, “I asked God to make me a better man and He gave me my wife.” He was baptized too just a few months back.
All around us, families with amazing, miraculous children who may not look the same or even see the world as we do but, man, can they sing and pass out hugs. Grandmothers and business owners and best friends and school board members and mentors and night-time janitors and stay at home mommies joined in our love of Jesus. Black and white and brown. Spanish and English and Texan. Tattooed and free and expecting and imperfect and new creations in Him.
None of us have any more to offer our Father than our own five loaves and two fishes.
Our lunch money.
And that, friends, is what I come offering you today.
My lunch money.
I don’t have much the world values, not a large platform or an agent or thousands of those dollar bills in my bank account. My voice is small in the vast world where everyone has the ability to yell their opinions and convictions and arguments from the top of any social media account they so choose.
And I don’t have any grand visions of changing any of those opinions and convictions and arguments.
That’s not my job. Ever.
What I bring today, what I offer to you, is a small part of my heart, of my soul, of my longing to understand every single person I stand next to or sit with or walk beside in my church. Because, I believe, if anything can begin somewhere, and begin with just a humble offering, it can and should begin in our church. And in your church.
We woke up, again, to a nation divided. People on one side or the other. Sharing their meme’s and their quotes and their news stories of their position. We raised our fists and with one click of a thumbs-up symbol, we told the world which side we stood for and how wrong the other side is. Maybe some of us thought about our friends who might see that like or that share and maybe some of us didn’t either think about them or even really care if we had. We live in a free country and we’re allowed to share and say what we want. My pastor might say, some of us posted with swords drawn, ready to assault. Others with boxing gloves on, ready to defend. Others of us neither posted nor liked because we’d just as soon stay out of the entire thing, thankyouverymuch.
And I understand all of them.
We want to prove ourselves, make our arguments heard, try and talk some sense into others. It’s all human to want to be validated and acknowledged and seen. We come with our own stories, our narratives, our own perceptions of our world and our culture. We believe them, they make sense, they feel comfortable, even morally superior sometimes. And all we want to do is make people understand just how wrong they are.
But in our attempts to make our own arguments and opinions heard, we neglect to sit still and listen to the other side. Not with the words waiting in our mouths to shout our rebuttals but with no expectations, no well-planned quotes, and no memes we totally loved. Simply listen. And seek to understand.
My lunch money today, my soul-offering to you, my precious brothers and sisters in Christ is scripture. It is the best bread we could ever eat, soaking up every morsel of the gospel of Jesus lovingly sprinkled on each page of Old and New, that He came for Jew and Gentile, for you and me, so that we could live free and holy and righteous through Him.
“In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.” ~Proverbs 18:17
Today, my offering, quiet, simple, humble offering, to you my beloved family is that we spend some time listening to the cross-examination.
We have heard the prosecution’s opening arguments, they’ve laid their cards on the table, we recognize and understand their position. So in the coming weeks and months and years, let’s maybe take some time and hear the argument for the defense, the cross-examination of the prosecution’s claims.
Let’s put down the swords of our thumbs-up, pack up the boxing gloves of our memes and instead, make the decision to listen. Listen to the cross-examination.
Maybe, we start with prayer.
I’m not sure how you will do that, listening to the cross-examination. There are books and articles and documentaries and musicians and poets and preachers and, yes, even athletes, you could start with but, of course, there is always our best choice when we start to feel our spines get a little straighter and our mouths beginning to form the words of attack, we pray.
We open our holy scriptures. We read His words. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us find what He says about reconciling all to Him. About loving others. About listening first and seeking to understand. We say, Father, show me where You need to refine me, where my heart needs healing, where my eyes need the scales taken off, so that I may see more of You, may love as You have loved me, may hold in esteem my brothers and sisters higher than myself.
This is not about politics, church. The enemy has dressed this division up so nicely in those clothes, though, it’s hard to see him for what he is.
Meanwhile, the world is watching us. To see if we truly love as Christ loved us or if we maybe love some other stuff more than our own people. Watching to learn if this Jesus and His teaching of loving our enemies and forgiving one another seven times seventy is the real deal or if it’s just something pretty we say when we are feeling offended. Turning their eyes towards our posts and our likes and our anger emoji faces and getting a glimpse at what is lurking in our hearts instead of the humble servant who ate dinner with the most despised, most displaced, most unclean people.
Our every post, every like, every retweet, our every comment, it all shows up in the newsfeeds of our friends. Our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Again, this isn’t about politics. Jesus never endorsed a single politician but He sure as shootin’ turned over the tables in His own house. This is about us, Church. About how we treat one another. How we honor one another. How we obey scripture and listen to the cross-examination.
This is all I have to offer you today, friends. A humble lunch of scripture to chew on and pray over. But I’m gonna be the person who listens to my sisters and brothers, who sees past my very own narrative I think is correct, who recognizes saying colors don’t matter is only true for some, and who takes the hands of those sitting next to me at church and kneels at the altar of our Heavenly Father as we pray and plead and praise Jesus for His gifts of love, peace, kindness, joy, gentleness, patience, and self-control.