Skipping the Messiness and Giving the Highlights
June 30, 2023
On May 30, my Covid test came back positive. We had flown the day before from Paris to Manchester, preparing for the Wesley Tour portion of our trip. With a positive test in hand, I looked over the last week and realized that it was not jet lag that made me so tired, it was not the new shoes that made my body ache, it was not the mold in the apartment that made me sick. It was Covid. But you would never know how sick I was by looking at my Facebook page. Instead, you’ll see lots of pictures of our smiling happy family in different places… Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, the Louvre, Musee Orsay, Versailles. We saw lots of things in Paris. We ate great food. We walked miles upon miles. We sat in cafés, ate croissants, and had wonderful food. It was a great trip.
And I was sick the whole time. The story of Paris that my social media tells skips those details. I napped in that one museum for an hour on a bench because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I napped on the train every time we took it. I hurt so bad I went from bench to bench in the Louvre to wait on my family. I couldn’t keep up with my family who were walking faster than me. I couldn’t help make decisions because of brain fog. It was bad, but I skipped the unpleasantness when I told the story of the day on social media.
On Sunday, we will read the story of Abraham and Sarah. Last week you’ll remember we read the promise of Abraham to make him a great nation. This week, we’ll encounter Abraham and Sarah at the tent under a tree, with three visitors promising again. Then we’ll read the fulfillment of the promise. The thing is, we’re going to skip two entire chapters of the story of Abraham‘s family. Like my Facebook posts, we will skip over the messiness of family life and only give the highlights. We will skip Abram lying to the ruler that Sarah is his sister… we’ll skip Sodom and Gomorrah… we’ll skip some unpleasantness that doesn’t help us to tell the story of Abraham and Sarah and their promise fulfilled.
The problem with this is if we only hear the good part of someone’s story, then it is easy to believe that they have to have it all together. If we only hear the part that makes for a happy story, then it’s easy to think that everything is lovely. We need to claim every part of the story, even the unsavory parts.
In our history as a church, we can look back and believe that everything was great. We can tell the highlights of our story that helped move us along to the next part of God’s portion of our story. We can forget all the people who came and never returned because we didn’t get something right. We can forget that people left because the entrance to the new sanctuary didn’t face the right way. We can forget that people were upset that a woman was appointed as pastor. We can forget the things that were unsavory or make us look bad.
The reality is, we all have our Sodom-and-Gomorrahs. We all have our times of lying to the ruler about our wife. We have our times when we napped on the bench or slept on the train in Paris. The danger comes in when we think that we have to have it all together. When we can’t be messy. The truth is, those messy parts are part of our story too. It’s important for us to remember that while we can focus on the highlights, there are ugly parts too, and that’s OK.
Our church is living through a messy time right now. I’m hopeful there’s no Sodom and Gomorrah ahead of us and I’m hopeful we’re not lying to any rulers, but I do know that all is not perfect. There’s a bit of chaos and unknown as we complete a revitalization process and a merger. There’s a bit of figuring out where we’re going and not knowing who’s even at the table to help move us forward. And that’s OK. Five years from now, we will look back and say that this time was a turning point for St. Mark’s. This period was a time of clarity, of renewed sense of purpose, of getting us ready for the next thing. We will remember that fabulous worship service, those amazingly gifted people in our church, the people whose faith impacted our journey. We will say, “Wasn’t God doing a great thing!”
In the meantime, I caution us all not to expect to live without messiness. Today, I invite you to be careful that you don’t hold yourself to a higher expectation than God does. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Not because we were perfect. While we were yet sinners. Our stories aren’t perfect, but God invites us to faithfulness. Christ died for us in our messiness.
What part of your story do you usually skip over? We don’t have to air our dirty laundry to everyone, but don’t let those stories be forgotten. It’s part of who you are, and what you’ve learned on your journey of faith.
See you Sunday.
- 8:30 a.m. Traditional service in sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
- 10 a.m. Traditional service in sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
- 10 a.m. Youth and children’s Sunday School and child care (except fifth Sundays)
- 10 a.m. Livestream premieres on YouTube and Website
To access our livestream service:
- From the main menu on our website click “Worship.” -OR-
- Go to YouTube and search for UMC St. Mark’s Oro Valley or use this link.