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  • Writer's pictureRev. Joel L. Tolbert

Inching Forward

At last night's Session's meeting, we discussed the next tiny steps away from our current COVID boundaries and protocols toward the next new normal. I am so grateful for these leaders on Session, who carefully feel God's call to celebrate and enjoy, and carefully look around to make sure we are loving and caring for those all around us.

I find my own prayer time is often about sorting out my feelings and thoughts into those two columns. Many of my prayerful thoughts and feelings are about my personal desire to be free, to have or get what I want or need, to freely speak my own opinion, and to have a community that honors and protects my personal freedoms.

Then, in the other column, I find myself prayerfully wanting what is best for others, wanting things to be more just and fair in our community, country, and world. I pray for others to have more, at least what they need, and others to be safe and protected even if that means a perceived reduction in my own safety and protection.

There seems to be something happening in many corners of Christianity. Some corners are vehemently defending their personal freedoms, and expecting the Christian message of their churches to defend and support their personal rights and freedoms even if at odds with communal norms. Other corners of Christianity are vehemently crying out for systemic change, for communal support and protection for all, for a rebalancing of power and resources even if that means a sacrifice of some personal freedoms or privileges.

When Jesus neared his arrest, he prayed. He prayed for himself, that this "cup" might be lifted from him, and that he might be free to keep living, speaking truth, challenging religious or political authorities who misused their privilege of power. He asked God for something personal. Then, at the end of his prayer, he prays, "but your will, not mine, be done." Jesus did pray for what he personally wanted, his personal preference and desire for a certain kind of life with certain freedoms, but he set that personal prayer under whatever God wanted from him for the greater community. In the end, Jesus' life and example show us our prayer must always bend toward the communal.

May your prayers today be honest enough to truly express what you need and want. Then, may you open your prayerfulness to listen for the will of God, and may you boldly lay down any personal privilege or use any personal power and inch forward for the sake of God's love for the wider community.

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