by Rev. Mike Gillen, Pastor, Bowling Green First, Eolia, and Oak Grove UMC
Two of the hallmarks of a sincere, alive Christian faith are a calm heart and an imaginative mind. As a pastor I’m always blessed when churches cultivate calmness and ministry imagination. I’m also constantly reminded that the imperfections of human nature tend toward anxiety and narrow-mindedness.
My son is the type of person who demonstrates what it means to have imagination. Whenever my wife or I suggest things he can eat or what clothes he can wear for Sunday worship, our son comes up with alternatives.
For example, one day my wife asked our son to go into a grocery store and get a loaf of bread and one dessert item for after dinner. Our daughter had the chicken pox and my wife didn’t want to infect the entire store. She gave our son twenty dollars and told him to hurry.
In five minutes our boy was back in the car with a loaf of bread and two kinds of ice cream.
His mother looked at him and said, “I thought I told you one dessert,” to which our son replied, “I had money left over so I thought I’d get another ice cream.”
It takes imagination to come up with different responses to a given situation. I see in churches the challenges of figuring out how to respond to difficulty, especially when it comes to negotiating relationships.
I remember one Sunday when I pastored a church in Virginia, someone came to me with a complaint about one of the church’s staff members. After listening to the church member’s concerns I suggested going to that staff member and telling them what I’d just been told.
The church member said to me, “I can’t go talk to them. I have no idea what to say. I don’t want to hurt the staff member’s feelings.”
It’s easy in this life to become caught up in stress, frustration, fear, and bad feelings. Grief, disappointment, anger and hatred are all expressions of anxiety that tend to restrict imaginative responses. Faith also gets limited when the mind becomes narrowed.
Christian faith revolves around the surprising truth that death doesn’t have to be the conclusion of life. Having just celebrated Easter, I’m reminded of the first Easter Sunday.
The first followers of Jesus Christ had witnessed his death just a couple of days earlier. They are huddled in a room together, fearful that the people who crucified Jesus would kill them, too.
Suddenly Jesus appears in the room with them. Seeing their slain leader in their midst three days after burying him inspires confusion and fear in Christ’s disciples.
Do you know what the first words out of Jesus’ mouth are? The resurrected Christ says, “Peace be with you.” At the very heart of the Christian faith is the inspiring truth that Jesus brings peace to all he seeks.
After that first Easter Sunday, Christianity began to spread throughout the known world. The peace of the resurrected Christ transforms his followers into messengers of a faith that testifies to God’s power to overcome death.
The power of the Easter message begins to take root in our hearts when we hear Jesus say, “Peace be with you.” Life can be scary, painful, and overwhelming. A sincere faith in God answers life’s anxieties with an imaginative reliance on Christ’s words.
May the peace of Christ be with you, calming your heart and opening your mind to the surprising blessings of sincere faith.