It was so good to get back to church yesterday. We were away for most of the summer, and missed regular contact with our church family. We got the kids settled in to their kids program (thankfully preschool is helping William here as he went without crying which is cause for celebration in itself) and sat down for a dose of inspiration from our fine pastor, and once again he did not disappoint.
He spoke on Revelation 2 which reminds us, "Remember your first love. Remember the heights from which you have fallen." We were encouraged to remember how we felt when we first met Jesus. To recall the peace, joy and love we experienced initially, before adding layer upon layer of theology and regulations to our first love.
What inspired me the most was not the message, but the honest and transparent way it was delivered. Our pastor is always willing to look inside of his own heart first, and examine how far he has personally strayed from his first love, and try to figure out how to get back to the height from which he has fallen.
It is all so simple, and yet the church as a collective whole has made it so complicated. It's about Jesus, making a way for us to reach God, and through Jesus we have been offered forgiveness, grace, mercy and love without condemnation or judgement. The rules of religion bring arguments, and division, and fear that you don't have all of the answers, when at the base it's about peace and joy and love.
Getting back to that simplicity, for most people who love Jesus, is a long process of stripping away all that we have been taught, and getting back to the basics. Love God, love others. That's been my focus for years, but I still have a distance to travel to really remember my first love, and connect to it without all of the excess baggage. I don't need to be right anymore. I don't want to waste time arguing the fine points of theology because it has ceased to matter to me. I want to follow Jesus, wherever he leads me, and I want to love others, and make it as simple as possible.
I love that my pastor is willing to walk this road in front of his congregation, and be honest about what he finds buried inside of his own heart. That kind of bravery is hard to find in this cynical world, and it lights the way like a candle in a very dark space. I'm drawn to it, and I believe that it has the power to transform the entire world, if we will allow it to first change our own heart, and help us get back to our first love.