“Every morning you should wake up in your bed and ask yourself: ‘Can I believe it all again today?’ No, better still, don’t ask it till after you’ve read The New York Times, till after you’ve studied that daily record of the world’s brokenness and corruption, which should always stand side by side with your Bible. Then ask yourself if you can believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ again for that particular day.” -Frederick Buechner, The Return of Ansel Gibbs

Belief comes harder these days. Even from a self-confessed optimist, hope is more difficult as of late. The recent pains of our global world and our more intimate worlds of “down the street” and “my friend’s friend,” has acted like a sledgehammer to faith. With each blow, belief crumbles and I find myself, the eternal optimist, wondering, “How many more blows before the whole thing comes tumbling down?”

Apathy is easier. When it seems like more than I can bear, maybe it is. Maybe if I just check out, the pain will go away. The killings will stop. The racism will fade away. The lies will end. If I disengage, will it all go away?

Jesus comes to mind. The garden of Gethsemane comes to mind.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death…My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus knew the human inclination to run, to hide, to disengage. I imagine everything inside of him aching for another way. I can feel his fear.

And then…

“Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Jesus moved toward the pain: “Rise! Let us go!” How absurd! Standing to his feet, he not only knocks over the human-inclination toward apathy, he tramples it and moves toward the difficulty, eyes wide open.

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As a community of those that follow the way of Jesus, we’ve asked the question, “What’s a proper response to all that has happened?” I wish we had the answers to share. Rather, we’ve found ourselves stuck in the place of mourning, hurting, and wondering, “Why?”

But as providence would have it, a proper and oh so timely response came to us.

Each summer in our neighborhood, local churches gather for Church in the Park. We come together to worship as one unified body of Christ. It’s one of our favorite happenings each year.

AME, Baptist, Ethiopian, Marshallese, non-denominational, United Methodist. Congregations from multiple denominations, ethnicities, social classes, races, we all gathered as one. One beautiful body of Christ.

It was a balm to the wounds of division, hatred, and death. It was a hint of an alternative way of being. It was a vision of the kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven. It was needed.

While I wish that was our present, ongoing reality, we left that experience and went back to life as usual. Because of it though, belief is easier to come by. Faith is stronger. Hope is more tangible.

It showed us what is possible and now, we press on in the difficult work of reconciliation, of fighting for justice, of naming and speaking against evil, of being the unifying presence of Christ in our world.

With boldness, we herald the words of Jesus: “Rise! Let us go!”

church in the park 2016