Go out into the world in peace. Have courage!
Hold fast to what is good. Return no one evil for evil.
Strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, help the suffering.
Honor all people. Love and serve the Lord your God,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
–The PC(USA) Common Book of Worship
Every week at the end of the Sunday morning service, the preacher raises their hand and gives a blessing and a charge. The blessing is to comfort us and the charge is to challenge us. The Christian life is meant to give us both—the comfort of God’s presence and the challenge of God’s call. These paradoxes dwell side by side each time we conclude our Sunday morning services together in the sanctuary. As we ponder what we are about to eat for lunch, how we are traveling to our next destination, and what errands we need to run, God meets with us in order to bless us and charge us.
Some of us would rather have the blessing without the charge, but we cannot have one without the other. It is like asking for Jesus to only come in grace but not in truth (John 1:14). We like the comforting words that God loves us, that Jesus is our friend, and that the Holy Spirit fellowships with us. We do not like the words that cause us to squirm a little and shift our weight in our shoes are the words of challenge. We shy away from the words that call us to act differently because of the way that God invites us to make our stated faith a lived reality.
Some of us would rather have the charge without the blessing, but we cannot have that either. God does not come to bring truth without grace or a charge without a blessing. If God did that, God would fulfill all the cliches about judgment without love. A charge is not meant to shame or punish. A charge is meant to change how we live and turn us around. For a charge to come in love, it must come with a blessing, too.
As we enter 2020, we have an opportunity to ask ourselves how God brings us comfort and challenge. How will you accept God’s grace—the grace that is waiting for you? What is God charging you to do and how will you respond?
-Associate Pastor Michele Ward