Reflections on Brokenness

          I recently read a comment from an 8th grade school teacher.  She wrote, “A common question from students sounds something like this: ‘Who is your favorite?’  As a teacher and as a mom (my middle child also asks the question), I am intrigued by this seemingly human nature to want to be the favorite.  I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing for I believe that what lies underneath the question of favoritism is the yearning to be loved and accepted and important.”

          What this teacher describes from her classroom and home is also found in the adult community.  Just listen carefully to conversations and notice how often comparisons are used.  We compare faith practices, the way others parent, childrens’ activities, politics, and lifestyles, just to name a few.  Why do we compare?  Isn’t there an underlying desire to want to be seen as equally or more acceptable to others?  Of course there is!  We want to be accepted as much as anyone else.

          I believe that THE most difficult concept to believe in the foundation of Christian faith is this; “Jesus loves me because of who I AM and not because of what I have or have not done.”  Listen to the words from James chapter 2, “Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?”  In our baptism, we confess dying to ourselves and rising in Christ Jesus.  If we are dead to ourselves, we are poor while being rich in faith as we see ourselves resurrected in Christ.

God’s value of YOU doesn’t change whether you live in a cardboard box in downtown Detroit or in a ranch styled house in the country.  God doesn’t love the poor trying to get into our country less than those who have been life-long citizens.  And God doesn’t love us based on worship attendance or volunteer hours.  God’s love cannot be bought or earned.

          It goes back to Christ’s words that the first will be last and the last will be first.  We look down upon the poor, judge without knowing them, and discriminate against races and cultures that are different (and especially poorer) than us.  In each of these examples, there is a common theme missing…relationship.  People and categories of people are judged by everything BUT there humanness as loved creations of God.

          The text continues, “You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” 

          What a burden to bear when we show partiality, playing favorites, and comparing who is more acceptable.  We waste so much energy trying to be acceptable to God when he already loves us.  If only we could understand that he doesn’t judge us like we judge ourselves, or like the world judges us. 

          Jesus loves YOU.  Look at the people sitting around you and tell them, “Jesus loves you.” (pause).  Now I want everyone to repeat after me, “Jesus loves me.  I am broken.  I am imperfect.  Yet Jesus loves ME.”

          Being the Church includes coming together to worship God.  But it is so much more than that.  It includes going to those who are struggling financially and getting to know them for who they are.   It includes meeting an immigrant and his/her family in order to understand them and the life they have lived.  It includes seeing every individual as a loved creation of God who has just as much right to live a fulfilling life as anyone else.

          Recently I referenced a theologian who compared before and after pictures.  She said, “Sometimes the Church wants to be seen as the after picture when in fact as Christians, we confess our brokenness and need for God’s grace daily.  Maybe if we see ourselves as the broken ‘before’ picture, we will be more open as the Church to welcome other broken people into the same presence of God’s grace.”  What a powerful analogy to send us from this place into the world as witnesses to our loving and merciful God.  Amen.