This week has left many of us questioning what tomorrow will bring for us as individuals, and as a nation. I have too. What happened this week was unprecedented and has created divisions the likes of which we’ve not seen in a long while. 

As a Pastor, I struggle with the best way to respond. Pastors are humans who struggle, have our own opinions, and seek to understand where Christ is calling us to move as we engage scripture, Christian community, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

Last Sunday I encouraged you (and myself) to take risks in this new year. I think that one of the biggest risks that we’ll have to take is to find ways past our differences to remain the community that has been called together by Christ at Benson Baptist Church. 

Yes, there are difficult conversations to be had. No, we will not all see eye-to-eye on everything, but that makes them no less important. We’ll need to handle our differences and tension with each other as we engage an ever-changing world that threatens to tear us apart. I understand that it is more comfortable to ignore the change, but the call of Christ has always required us to make disciples everywhere –– and that includes having the difficult conversations to follow that command. 

As I’ve said before, I know that we are divided as a community on many lines: Republican, Democrat, Liberatarian, Trump-supporters, and Biden-supporters (to use the most recent election figureheads). We are a community of conservatives, liberals, and everything in-between. This has always been true. These divisions have always been a part of who we are. 

The question that has also always been there is the one we still face: how will we unite behind the one thing that brings us together? That thing is, of course, our following after Christ. 

Since the beginning of the Christian movement, there has been disagreement in what we believe. The existence of differences have always been a defining trait of what it means to be a community of faith following Christ. Differences around what scripture says, differences around what type of worship is right, differences around theological statements of faith. 

In all of that, the uniting presence of Christ has remained the same. To him is our first call, before party, before nation, before any other defining trait we carry. 

No matter a person’s political affiliation in our community they are not evil. No matter the theological belief of a person in our community they are no less important. We all love Jesus equally. We are all striving to follow Jesus equally. 

We will differ in other things, but our love for Christ will always bring us back to one another, if we make it our first priority. 

As your pastor, I do not see my work as making you agree with me on every issue. I see my work as a shepherd to guide us all toward a more open and honest community where we can be ourselves and grow in our relationship with Christ across whatever differences arise. 

No matter where you find yourself today, you are a beloved member of our community. You’re a beloved child of God. Whether you’ve disagreed with other members of our community in these days of unrest –– or even me –– these things are no less true. 

We can stand divided, or we can be a united force of love, grace, and change in our community and world. That is the call Jesus left us with, and that is the challenge we carry into the future. 

I’ve said it before and I mean it today as much as any day before it: I am thankful to be your pastor. Over the last year I have grown to love all of you –– even as COVID has kept us apart –– and I look forward to walking together for many years to come. 

May Christ bless you in this new week and may the peace of Christ permeate your days, no matter what they may bring.

The best is yet to be for us, and for our congregation. I firmly believe that.

The peace of Christ be with you.