Spiritual leaders on our Session (church board) and new members alike have been asked to share during Worship their response to this question: “What does Bethesda Presbyterian Church mean to me?”
Lately, we have had some focus on 12-step programs. I am not a 12-step follower, but I have been to many meetings and had conversations with people involved with these programs. Last evening was such a time when four members of the Del Ray Club and Charlie Brown shared their moving stories. We frequently hear the success stories, of people who have had the courage face up to their addiction or the addiction of a loved one and to change their lives. But there are probably as many if not more less happy stories, of lives ruined through addiction.
My father and two uncles were three such persons, unable or unwilling recognize their dependence on alcohol and unable to see what it was doing to their lives and the lives of those close to them. And so I think of the courage of those who do try to overcome their addiction, because it was probably very hard to walk through the door of AA for the first time, and probably for many times after that. We heard some of those stories last night.
I think there is some amount of courage to join a congregation as Kurt and Lois are doing today, and even to come through our church doors for the first time and for the 100th time. Here inside the Beltway, when you mention that you go to church, people kind of look at you funny, like You Seemed Like a Level-Headed Person But Now I’m Not So Sure.
I hope I am not stepping on the sermon, but I think of the man in today’s gospel as needing courage and strength, rather than fretting about his lot in life, whining to Jesus. Our faith in the path of Jesus Christ gives us the courage to face the difficulties each of us lives with. The courage to live with our own problems and the strength to be ready to help others with theirs.
That is one of the central themes for being A Place for Healing: looking after not only our own spiritual wellness but that of people around us. It is an especially joy-filled calling. For me, our church as A Place for Healing means that we can serve as a Sanctuary, a safe place, where everyone who comes into this church, whether for a Sunday service or adult education, or the Saturday lunch program for the hungry, or the Del Ray Club, can find courage to live the life that God calls them to live, in God’s grace and love.