Preparing for Worship – Terry Wade.
Sunday, April 23, Wilshire will engage in an act of affirmation. We will “bless” Pastoral Resident Brianna Childs as she moves into a new phase of ministry. In blessing Brianna, we will receive blessing. That is the beauty of blessing. In affirming her, we affirm each other as members of this congregation and Wilshire’s mission to be an uplifting church for individuals and for the larger community. Today is easy because we have been engaged in Brianna’s journey. But giving and receiving affirmation doesn’t always come so easily.
One of my favorite poster images has lingered in my mind’s eye for over 40 years. A bedraggled, limp, wrung-out rag doll is lying on an old-fashioned scrub board. The caption reads “The truth will set you free, but first it makes you miserable.” Truth is like that. While truth can be cleansing, it is not always easy to accept until we experience the transformative blessings that come from trying to live truth.
The Bible is full of examples of rag doll events. The prophets were mostly about rag doll moments. The disciples, the women and other followers struggled to comprehend life after Jesus, and blessings seemed an unlikely outcome. Like them, we can get caught up in our own legitimate angsts and brokenness, which can cloud our understanding of how God calls us to affirm and bless one another. Like them, we can stay open to “the stranger’s” voice when on our own Emmaus roads.
Jesus tells his listeners that if they follow his teachings, they will know the truth, and the truth will set them free. Getting to Jesus’ truth can feel like a scrub board on which we try to wash away the stains of our self-serving cultural, religious and political ideologies. Hopefully, our miserable rag doll moments humble us and lead us back to Jesus’ truth. Then, we are set free to give and receive the blessings of living The Way — of being kingdom people in the here and now who seek to make loving God and loving others available to all and to lift up the humanity of all in the here and now.
For now, we can experience the joy of affirming Brianna in her call and also feel blessed as individuals and as a church that she chose to share her faith journey with Wilshire.