Good morning Faculty and Staff,
(Ways to respond to the tragedy left by typhoon Haiyan are at the bottom of this email)
As a pastor, I spend a lot of time trying to get to the core issue. Members of my congregation present themselves to me with all sorts of behaviors, from depression to perfectionism, from drinking to crazy dating habits, from anger to apathy. But what I have come to know over the past 15 years of being a pastor, the past 8 years on this campus, is that why people come is usually not why they are there.
Let me offer two examples. A young woman sits across from me and tells me that she’s having trouble in a public speaking class. She tells me that she panics every time she gets up in front of people, which is a problem since her job will require an upfront presence. After she presented her problem to me I simply asked, “What do you think you’re afraid of?” To which she responded “Not being perfect”.
“What would happen if you aren’t perfect?”
“People will judge me and criticize me.”
“What will happen if people judge you and criticize you?”
“I’ll feel small and rejected and unloved”
“Why is that such a scary thing for you?”
“I already feel that way all the time.”
“My parents had me when they were young. I knew from the beginning I was an inconvenience, not really wanted and more of a duty than a gift. So I’ve tried to be good enough to make them think I wasn’t a mistake.”
Can you hear it? She’s not afraid of being in front of people, she’s afraid she’ll be rejected if she’s not perfect.
Let me offer another example. A few years ago one of my leaders became a bit elusive. They quit showing up to Chapel, they missed meetings, they didn’t answer emails or texts and then they dropped out of leadership altogether. Another young adult who has found a life following Jesus to be antiquated? When I finally caught up with them I simply said, “How are you doing?” And the response was swift, “I suck Pastor Judy. You don’t want me in church. I’m not good marketing. I just keep failing over and over again.”
Can you feel it, this young person is not critical of Christianity, they’re critical of themselves and when they are around followers of Jesus who seem to be “have it all together” that is when they are most aware of their failure.
Why people come to see the pastor is usually not why they are there and it is my conclusion, anecdotal as it may be, that the core issues behind most of people’s presenting problems can be boiled down to one big issue, “As a human being am I really loved beyond what the world tells me? And as a human who struggles with human things, am I really loved without conditions?”
And I think that most of us have this as our core issue and I truly believe that most of our less-than- functional behaviors, both individually and as the church, stem from a core wound in all of us, a wound that seems to speak very loudly, “You are only one step away from being unlovable.”, “Perform well or you might as well hit the road.”, “Be someone that other people think is someone or else you’re nothing at all.” I’m not saying this is a thought that we actively think. I am saying that this is a thought that actively thinks us, that tells us that the unconditional love of humans is really too good to be true.
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17). But most of have an asterisk that leads us to our truth at the bottom of the page *but perhaps some judgment.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) *but the truth is we are not totally convinced.
And so during our time in Chapel this morning I want to try to convince you once again, that God so loves humans and that he sent his one and only son, Jesus Christ not to condemn humans but to redeem them.
I also want to make you aware of several opportunities to respond to the tragedy created by typhoon Haiyan.
· After Chapel today we will gather in the basement of Sohlberg Hall where Prof. Boaz Johnson, Prof Timothy Lin and Chrissy Palmerlee from Covenant World Mission will offer some insights as to how we can help our brothers and sisters in the Philippines.
· Sunday evening there will be an ecumenical community prayer service at 5:00pm. The service will be held in Isaacson Chapel and will be led by Prof. Paul De Neui and Prof. Boaz Johnson. The service will be followed by dinner in Olsson Lounge at 6:00pm.
· There is an opportunity to make cards to send to those who need encouragement. These will be delivered through our partners on the ground in the Philippines. We will be making these on Sunday evening but you can also stop by University Ministries at any time.
· We will be also be taking an Offering next Wednesday in Chapel which will go to one of three missions that are already on the ground: Medical Teams International, World Relief and Jesus Covenant Church. There will also be an opportunity to give online and we will send you the link as soon as it is set up.
May you know God’s deep love for you and for the whole world,