“Don’t Be Afraid Christians. Speak Up. The Lord is with you.”
Rev. William Bills
January 13, 2021
FROM THE PASTOR
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:26-30)
This scripture has always intrigued me. Mary’s response to Gabriel might be overlooked. Gabe is pretty enthusiastic. He tells Mary God is with her and she is favored by God. He also has to calm her fear. Mary is perplexed at the angel’s greeting. She is not sure what it means to be favored by God.
Some blessings may seem more like challenges. The prophets of Israel were all reluctant participants in God’s plans. Faithfulness can be hard. The Chinese the words for “crisis” and “opportunity” are basically the same. Mary seemed ambivalent at best on being chosen.
Maybe the past five years have been for us some kind of blessing from God. One we have been reluctant to accept. In November of 2016 I was “the new pastor”. When asked about the election I played it safe. Did the questioner want to commiserate or was I about to get ambushed? I thought I had a clever reply: This may be an opportunity for the church to do important things. That could be acceptable to anyone. It was also a way to avoid conflict.
Liberal Christians tend to err on the side of grace. We don’t seek conflict. We have never organized or been as outspoken as the religious right. Our idealism holds that all perspectives are valid and should be heard. On the other hand, Jesus would have said no to things we have tolerated. Jesus would have said no to things we have ignored.
Three media images from the recent Capital insurrection caught my attention. While others fixated on the Confederate flag, I noticed an insurrectionist carrying the same Christian flag that we have in our church on the Senate floor. Another carried a large sign that simply said “Jesus”. A third insurrectionist held up a large book with the title, “Holy Bible” on the cover. Is it any wonder that the American Church has experienced many years of decline?
This may sound perplexing. It should be problematic. Christians like to feel called, chosen, maybe even special in some ways. American Democracy has been threatened and so too has American Christianity been threatened. This is an opportunity for the church to do important things. When conflict cannot be avoided it should be constructively engaged. Truth must be told. Jesus, the church, the Bible, cannot be compromised to sanction violent insurrection, murder or threats on the lives of elected officials. Don’t be afraid, Christians. Speak up. The Lord is with you.
At University United Methodist Church, we affirm that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are an open and inclusive congregation and welcome all persons into full participation regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic situation, age, ability, education, background and whether single or partnered.