This Sunday we begin our God in The Movies series, where we’ll hear from various people in our community as they share about their own journey of struggle, pain, joy and hope in real life… And real life is rarely easy! These have been harrowing times. Sometimes the apparently endless pain and suffering in the world is overwhelming to the point of despair. I won’t recount the catalog of traumas because we see it every day, and each one weighs on us differently as individuals. But collectively we’re all asking: Is there any hope? Will justice ever prevail? Can our world be healed? Is reconciliation possible? If God exists, does God care?

I ask those questions every day. And to be honest, on many of those days I find myself thinking “no” to all of them, and despondency begins to swallow up hope while anger, blame and resentment suffocate love. But something always draws me back from the precipice. It doesn’t really feel of my own doing, but a gravitational pull that won’t let me go. It’s the love, the hope, the pain, the reality of Jesus. It’s a light that sometimes seems to barley glimmer in the dark and other times burns like the sun!

As a community we are following Jesus—not someone who tells us everything is going to be OK, not someone who denies the pain and suffering, not someone who just says, “Look on the bright side!” But someone who looks all the trauma squarely in the face and walks right into it all with love. Someone who says, “Come with me and learn from me.” Someone who says, “I am with you!”

This past month or so we have been following Jesus through the story told in the Gospel of Luke. I find myself in that story wanting to be courageous enough to stand with Jesus as he sets his face towards Jerusalem. I want to be compassionate enough to weep with him as he looks over that city that represents the pain and suffering of humanity. I want to be willing enough to walk right into that city with him, no matter what the consequences. I want to be faithful enough to stay with him as he refuses to give up on love even to the point of death. And I want to be daring enough to believe in resurrection and participate with him in a new creation that is not yet fully born in this world. Most days I struggle and fail with all of this. But it turns out Jesus believes in me more than I believe in him. So I just can’t give up, because he has not given up on me… or on you, or on anyone, or on the world with all its darkness.

Everything we do here at Cedar Ridge is about following Jesus, so lean in, take part in the opportunities and refuse to give up. In the context of real life, in the face of all the darkness and despair, let’s do all we can to become more just and loving people—in our families, in our friendships, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, in our activism. And let’s not stop doing all we can to make the world a better place—through our families, our friendships, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and through our activism.

With hope and love,