I’m writing on a beautiful afternoon! The sun is bright and warm, the tulips are bright and beautiful and we just finished praying together with people of faith from numerous churches on the Plateau. I even got my laptop back from the shop in time to write this! How blessed we are, though there are still a lot of people facing very hard times all around us. People are still unemployed, struggling with depression, fighting diseases, worrying over children, anxious about financial prospects, frightened by senseless violence…there are so many things gone wrong with the world it should not surprise us that many people are struggling. And it should not surprise us that Christians would come together to pray for each other, to pray for our local leaders, to pray for our emergency service personnel, the first responders to accidents and tragedies, even to pray for our state and national leaders to have wisdom and courage to do what is good, to follow the higher path of integrity and compassion, of justice and mercy. I was reminded (as we stood in that glorious sunshine) of Jesus’ own moments of prayer and how often he prayed that others would receive God’s blessings.
The apostle John recorded one of those prayer times (John 17) in which Jesus noted that his followers would not always fit comfortably into the world around them. Jesus even prayed for his followers then, asking God to protect them and to make them holy even while they were still in this world. Jesus noted that his followers wouldn’t really fit into the world very easily; Jesus’ followers would find themselves out of step with “world” around them in many ways, and Jesus didn’t ask God to change the world so they would “fit in.” He asked only that God preserve them through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus described them as still being “in the world” even while they no longer “belonged to the world.” And Jesus observed the sad fact that there would be times when being like Jesus would (like Jesus did) draw a hostile response. There would be times when people’s determination to do what they please would conflict with our commitment to honor God in the conduct of our lives.
That’s a very true and very sad reality. But if we are to follow Jesus, to be like Jesus in approving of those things Jesus found to be good, to be like Jesus in opposing those things that Jesus opposed, to pursue a moral and ethical purity because Jesus was moral and ethical in every way, we must at times be out of step with the world around us. That’s usually uncomfortable and sometimes it’s dangerous. Our sophisticated modern (or postmodern if you wish) world doesn’t really seem to approve of public demonstrations of faith. But for a few minutes at least, we gathered to pray for everyone around us, our neighbors, our community, our schools, our leaders here on the Plateau, serving in Olympia, and even in our nation’s capital. And I pray that we continue to learn how to be like Jesus in compassion, in humility, in grace and in love for one another.