When I arrived at Virginia-Highland Church five years ago the windows were falling out. One plunged from the steeple to the sidewalk below and would have killed a passerby if it had struck them. The air conditioning, which literally had been held together with swimming pool tape, finally gave up the ghost, and the roof over the education building began to leak copiously. Although we had absolutely no money (I put the roof repair on my credit card.), we managed to get the repairs done, and the new life sparked renewal and growth that continues to this day.
This Sunday we will break ground on the second phase of our building renovation. It is badly needed, and it also is a priority because it is an expression of who we are as a congregation: We will make the building accessible to all people, which is a vital expression of our value of “making welcome a verb”
Some churches might argue for other choices like new pads for the rock hard pews, or a new sound system in a room that sometimes makes it nearly impossible to understand what is being said, or new flooring or … If you have spent any time around churches you know how it goes. This isn’t the case around our place, though. Because we are clear about our values and our mission, there has not been a moment of hesitation or a word of resistance to widening the welcome of our church.
So it can be with our lives. If we align our values with the core values of Jesus, choices and decisions become much easier. There is less ambivalence and regret because, if we are serious about following the Way of Jesus, much of the direction of our life has been determined already. We ALWAYS will choose the way of compassion, of grace, of generosity, of gratitude, of mutuality, of mercy, and of life. The trouble is so few of us take the values of Jesus seriously. The civil-religion of America that passes itself off as Christianity is often diametrically opposed to the Way of peace and compassion that Jesus taught. It is all too easy to get caught up in those values and deceive ourselves that we are following Jesus.
The lesson I’ve learned at church, though, is, if we can set aside our way and follow the way of Jesus, decisions are easy, even if the Way is hard.
Rev. Michael Piazza