What do you love?
By: The Rev. Tom Brackett, Manager for Church Planting & Mission Development
A few months ago, I spent five minutes under a rogue black bear, fighting for my life. The attack was under the cover of darkness and the bear’s cunning and ferocity was so much more than anything I could have imagined. I kicked and punched with everything I had, just to keep this 200-pound predator from getting to my neck and vital arteries. With the help of my hiking partner and our brave black shepherd mix, I eventually made it to the car and then to our local emergency room with a dislocated shoulder, extensive lacerations and a torn and detached bicep. It has taken three months of therapies and surgeries to put me back together again.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting on two learnings from this near-death encounter with a bear. While my fifty-four lacerations and puncture wounds were healing, I came to realize that, despite my in-the-moment fear that I might not make it, that bear was not invincible. I also realized that I did not have to win this fight; I only had to get out from under his oppressive strength and escape to the safety of my car.
The reason I share this story with you, dear reader, is that so many of our faith communities are fighting for their lives under an oppressive bear of hopelessness. The hopelessness often stems from the uncertainties of COVID and the accompanying restrictions on our gathering. Many of our communities can no longer imagine how that their best days might yet be ahead of them. They are living as though Jesus claimed to have come among us so that we might have less death, rather than the abundant life that he actually promised.
I’m writing to share my conviction that this pandemic of despair is not invincible … in fact we have so many congregations that are now MORE connected to their communities than ever before. While they often miss the former ways of being church in person, they are sharing their gifts with such hope and gratitude. While they may experience periods of hopelessness and despair, they come out from under those by seeking to serve Christ in all persons, in love. And that makes perfect sense to me … at my scariest moments under the bear, it was love that got me out from under the bear’s death-grip and back to the embrace of family and friends.
May I ask you, “What do you love?” In my experience, it is love that dependably overcomes hopelessness and fear. I sense that many of our faith communities need to return to the Source of love … the One who promised that neither death, nor life … nor things present, nor things to come … nor bears will be able to separate us from the love of God. My dream is that every one of our faith communities could find their way back to THAT kind of love … for themselves and for the world around them.