Being Authentic

Authenticity is the latest “buzzword” among the church. People are seeking authentic leaders, authentic relationships, and authentic believers. But it is not like there is an “authenticity meter” we can apply to anyone. Yes some people put on their Sunday best for church, and their Monday worst right after the service, but for the most part, we strive to follow Jesus the best we can in a fallen and sinful world. And the best way to do this is to be ourselves while allowing the Spirit to transform our minds into the likeness of Christ.
Memorial Day was a great opportunity for our congregation. The local Memorial Day parade goes right past the church building, and stops for a brief ceremony at the cemetery. We set up a table with information on the church, and gave away bottles of water and lollipops. As people were lining up for the parade, we handed out information on Vacation Bible School and the upcoming Strawberry Festival. No hype or pressure, just a couple of us talking with the community, telling them about some upcoming events.
Now here is the great part. Our neighbors brought their kids to the parade – and they got to see me in “Pastor Bill Mode”. They saw me interact with the community and with church members. And guess what? They saw the same guy who stands in the pulpit every Sunday preaching God’s word. The same guy who leads a tribe of children during VBS shouting chants like a drill sergeant (although much more fun). The same guy who talks about super hero movies, loves model trains, and shares his faith in a simple, authentic manner. The same guy who, a couple of hours later, sat around the picnic table with them, sharing a beverage and a discussion about religion in the United States.
So can I declare myself “authentic”? Or is that an unauthentic thing to do? I have no clue. What I do know is this. I am a sinner in need of a savior. I am a decent guy who tries hard to follow God’s path. I love Jesus. And all of this is true whether I’m in the pulpit, the community, or my backyard.



Wiping Tears

I was doing some reading when I came across this statement:

A great Orthodox theologian once said that we do not believe in a God who will show us how all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together in the end. We believe in a God who will wipe away every tear from every eye.

Now I am not sure who the theologian was, nor the site where I found that quote. But it speaks to me. So often in the course of ministry we get asked the question “why?” We get asked “if God is good, why do bad things happen?” And we try to answer, often using Systematic Theology, which is a wonderful tool, but doesn’t really address the immediate need. Or we resort to the pithy statements that people make to comfort someone…statements like
“On this side of eternity we only see the hanging threads and knots, but on the other side we will see the great tapestry God is weaving.” And even though I’m sure I’ve said some version of this, I pretty much cannot stand it.

When someone is hurting and saying “why do bad things happen?” they are really asking “what is going on?” “Where is God in all of this?” And we actually have answers, some of which a hurting person is not ready to hear. But one thing they are always ready to hear is this. God loves you and wants to comfort you. A human may have hurt you; the fallen, sinful world might have hurt you. You might have hurt yourself. But God is. And God loves you. And God will wipe away every tear. That is one of His promises.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4