The safe place. I have been told that overemphasize it. I think that is because there is so little safety in the world. Consider the drama surrounding refugees internationally. Many U.S. governors are nervous about allowing too many refugees into their states and are saying that they won’t let them cross their borders. Most of the fear is fueled by the brutal attacks in Paris last weekend. The whole world seems to be frightened not sure what we should do. Have you seen this video of this little Parisian boy and how his father helped explain the problems to him? It warmed my heart. I loved it. Take a gander.
But I hate to say this, it’s just not true. Flowers and candles don’t save you from guns and people that want to use them to kill you. It’s a nice message and perhaps immediately comforting to the kid, but eventually this little boy will grow up and realize that what his dad was telling him was just a crock.
The world isn’t safe. My tiny story about that this week is that during last Monday’s Imaginarium, I foolishly left my bike in our vestibule while it was unlocked. From what I can tell, someone walked in a took it. My bike wasn’t safe and I felt less-than-safe too. Flowers won’t get my bike back right?
The world isn’t safe. That’s the reality. And we aren’t safe either. I think we were created good and the world too was, so we aren’t fundamentally unsafe, but circumstantially. There is darkness all around us. And we are a part of it. Paris reminds us of it. Those of us who are paying attention know it’s happening all over the world and the Middle East. Ultimately, it’s not hard to see.
As we enter this Advent season, I am reminded of my favorite line from the first chapter of John’s gospel. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” If there is no darkness, if there is safety that we can just invent on our own, then we don’t need a savior. Jesus is who makes us safe and who saves us.
“A safe place to explore and express God’s love.” That’s what you’ll see if you past our congregation in South Jersey’s headquarters. I think it’s important that we note Circle of Hope is safe because churches, these days, aren’t known for being safe places. They aren’t even safe for refugees in some places. But it isn’t our ideology and our structure that makes us safe, or something, it isn’t our strategy that does. But it’s Jesus. All of those things come from Jesus, but make no mistakes, Jesus is what makes and keeps us safe and we won’t keep you safe from him. Without Him, there is no safety.
The Frenchman talking to his kid might have offered him that instead of a bogus story about flowers and candles. What do you do though when the concept that Jesus keeps you safe, to so many people, is in itself unsafe? That when I say Jesus is fundamental to my safety and my salvation, I am ultimately being unsafe.
Don’t we generally think that people need to create their own version of safety and security and that Jesus may simply be tangentially apart of it? If you don’t think that, I want to note that that is the prevailing philosophical attitude in this age. And if you push back against it too much, you may very well feel unsafe yourself.
Maybe if I can create my own bubble where I live and don’t interact with the world, I’ll feel safe. But even a protective bubble can pop. No matter how sheltered we are, the world’s unsafety will find us. No suburb is safe is enough, no gentrified neighborhood. We are deluding ourselves if we think that. It’s OK to be in danger because Jesus saves us. And I think you can commune with and know Jesus in the context of community. In fact, I think that’s the best way to do it.
But the work isn’t done when you feel safe. What are you going to do with it? Indulging in the comfort of the security that you found seems like a little counterintuitive. The Body of Christ is safe, and Jesus transforms us in it. That resulting transformation then is invigorating to us. We have to do something with it. Our transformation isn’t just a way to get saved, it’s an opportunity, it’s a calling.
One of the things we say around here: We admit that we are less of a “safe place” for people who don’t want to take initiative, own their dignity or make commitments.
The truth here is simple. We are a safe place, but it takes some initiative, its takes owning your dignity, it takes some commitment to create that space, to follow Jesus.
I am not sure we feel like we should take much initiative because we are dominated by so much. The world around us is heavy. It’s not just evil that oppresses us, it’s how tiny we are compared to the great institutions at hand. We are surviving in a world of giant, industry, hugeness. We are small. What does my initiative do?
Perhaps you should reframe the question. The little things you can do—the little trail you leave on the beach despite the huge waves that crash around you—matters. Maybe you have grand aspirations of changing the world and experiencing all things. Some humility and modesty may be in order. You probably won’t do all that, but I still think you can make a difference and I think that matters.
So much of the time, our insecurity limits us. We become critical of ourselves and the people around us. Please don’t let that get in the way of how God can use you in Circle of Hope. Don’t reduce yourself into nothing just because you don’t meet your arbitrary standards. I think you are good enough and I think you can own that.
Commitment is probably something you won’t be safe from around here. If we are going to do our part in the faith movement our part in following Jesus, I think you need to be in it and make your yes a yes.
If your version of safety involves not taking initiative, not making commitments, and not being your full self in Christ, this won’t feel safe to you. It might feel pressure-filled. You might feel guilty. There are a lot of things you can feel if you don’t want to be transformed by Jesus. Lack of safety may be one of them. This community may not work for you if you don’t want to give it something yourself, make it something yourself; if you are committed to contemptuous deconstruction, you may feel alone and in danger, ultimately. But I think you are more than that.
But if you are transformed, if you find that Jesus has saved you and is moving you, I think creating a safe place in a dark world, will feel natural. Not easy, but normal. It will take your dignity and your initiative. And if you just want to hang around on the outskirts, on the edges of the community until you’re ready to do something I think that’s OK, but I think the fullness of what Jesus is doing in the world is when you are a participant, not just a spectator.