Atonement Lutheran Church
This Sunday I attended Atonement Lutheran Church in Upper Arlington with my friend, coworker, and trivia partner, Sherrie. Sherrie and I compete a few times per month on a Harry Potter trivia team called Neville Gonna Give You Up, and we are consistently winners.
That isn’t relevant to today, just a slight brag and some context for how cool Sherie and I are as actuaries and Harry Potter nerds.
This has been a pretty turbulent week for America. In Westerville, OH (very close to home), officers Joering and Morelli were shot and killed in the line of duty on Saturday. In Parkland, FL, a school shooting left 17 people dead and others injured on Wednesday. We are all shocked, sad, hurt, disgusted, angry, and tired of violence. We are tired of not feeling safe. We are ready for change. I am ready for change, institutional change but also spiritual change within myself. I don’t like feeling complacent and feeling so powerless to the violence.
Atonement Lutheran Church addressed these recent tragedies, focusing their service today on the concept that we are weak, but Jesus is strong.
The service opened with a children’s message and I witnessed my favorite exchange I have seen in a church so far.
Children’s leader: Who is strong?
3-year-old girl: I am strong!
Children’s leader: Well, yes, but as humans we are weak, who is strong?
3-year-old girl: ME!
Hell yeah, little girl, you are strong.
Anyway, the answer she was looking for was Jesus. Jesus is strong, we are weak, we are sinners, we suck. The reverend said it much more eloquently, but he elaborated on all the ways humanity is fallible. This week, having been so violent, was an unfortunate example of how vulnerable humans can be. No one is safe, nowhere feels safe.
Then the sermon took a hard right turn in a direction I wasn’t expecting, but I needed to hear. In my Ash Wednesday post, I explained how the conceit of the Jesus dying on the cross for our sins didn’t make sense to me, logically. Why would God be so convoluted as to create a human version of himself, let him live on Earth, and then kill him, and then resurrect him to cleanse our sins? But the reverend took the sermon forward by saying, nowhere is safe, and that’s why Jesus is so great. *record scratch*
You heard me. The world sucks, people hurt one another, our mortal bodies are fragile, and that’s why Jesus is such a big deal. Jesus was God coming to Earth, taking mortal form, and experiencing our suffering and our pain firsthand. Jesus had to experience being a vulnerable human. He ultimately had to experience a painful, violent death. And that is the ultimate expression of God’s love, because he was willing to send His son to experience this messed up place. Because of his death, our mortal bodies may not be safe, but our soul always will be. We are saved in spirituality.
I had a little moment of realization. The Jesus story doesn’t seem so convoluted to me now. In the Christian view of the world, evil will always exist and bad things will happen, but we have this redeemer who has also suffered and experienced evil and used that experience to save us eternally instead of protect us during this lifetime.
Now, do I fully accept that? Do I believe that? I don’t know. But I certainly don’t vehemently reject it as I might have in the past. The logical reasoning of Christianity still isn’t perfect in my mind, but it’s less imperfect to me than I have felt it was in the past. I can see how Christ as the son of God is a reasonable expression of God’s love instead of some wacky story.
This isn’t to say I think prayer and accepting Christ is the answer to all the evil in this world. Even if we will be saved ultimately, the violence we experience in this life isn’t okay, and I don’t accept complacency in the meantime. I think this life matters intensely, and I think if we can lessen the evil in this world, then we should. Atonement Lutheran addressed this, too, saying we still need be a voice of encouragement to those around us, keep our eyes peeled for ways to help others, and pray to God that our spirit be committed to Him. I think the “keep your eyes peeled” piece is most important right now. Whenever there is a massive tragedy, some seem to think belief in God is the answer. I can’t tell you how many times in the past week I have read “if we kept God in our schools, shootings wouldn’t happen.” Or that “thoughts and prayers” are all we can offer the dead and their families.
Thoughts and prayers are good! Forcing your religion into the classroom is not. Caring about families and praying for their spiritual salvation is good! Expecting prayer alone to fix the problem is not. These seem like absolutes to me. It’s important we still try to make change in our society to lessen the violence. Some think the answer lies in mental health care, some in gun control, and the point of this post isn’t to share my own opinions. The point is, if you think something could make a difference, advocate for it. Research who you vote for, participate in your local elections, reach out to your federal and state representatives, attend a peaceful protest, do what you can. And pray, too, if that’s your jam. But be active.
Atonement Lutheran is being active by having their own comfort dog, Rosie. You can follow her on facebook here. Rosie is a trained LCC K-9 Comfort Dog who interacts with people in disaster response situations and brings a calming and comforting influence. There are currently 19 LCC K-9s like Rosie in Florida doing outreach.