There is little doubt we live in a time filled with immense challenges in virtually every domain.  Little is easy, much is arduous, and levels of conflict and hostility are extreme.  Like the terribly dry conditions in the Rocky Mountains this July, it often feels as if things might just explode.  In the midst of such realities, much of what we have known and counted upon is on shaky ground.  Not much is certain and social trends are morphing faster than 24 hour news cycles.

Even how people spend idle time is quickly shifting.  Service clubs like Rotary often struggle to find members.  The numbers of people playing golf, going to movie theaters, taking time to browse in a bookstore or a shopping mall, or taking the time to have lunch during a busy work day is diminishing.  And of course, across the nation, fewer people are active in a community faith and not as many folks as in the past are willing to engage in much that requires consistent participation over the course of time, let alone a sacrifice.

In response to all of this, one Christian writes, “if we are going to survive, if we are going to be for the world as Christ meant for us to be, we are going to have to spend more time away from the world.”  I disagree with this perspective.

Certainly what I have outlined in terms of our current zeitgeist is difficult at best, Yet I believe as Christ followers we have an astonishing opportunity as we move into the second half of 2017.  I don’t believe we are called to retreat from the world, but rather to do just the opposite.  This is not the time for us to circle the wagons.

It is time as Christ followers we take our faith and our walk with Jesus seriously, that we keep our eyes on Jesus, and that we follow him out into the world.  Jesus was not partisan nor did he drop out of the immense social conflict surrounding him.  Rather he focused on what he was called to do which was to demonstrate that God is love, to heal, to bring about justice, to confront misdirected religious folks, to forgive humanity, to offer a path forward, and to initiate changes so the world could begin to look more like God, the Kingdom of God, etc.

We are in dark times.  Jesus is the light of the world.  As things darken, we have the opportunity to offer Jesus to those around us.  The darker things become, the brighter the light of Christ will appear.

In a short weekly article it is impossible to be concrete with how to follow Jesus more fully out into the world.  Hence I begin a two part sermon series this week to get into this topic more fully. And, immediately following each worship service we will gather for an informal discussion and Q&A. I look forward to hearing from you on this important topic as well.

That said, the takeaway from this short piece is to invite us all to focus more and more on Jesus, engage more fully in prayer and in our faith communities, disengage from conflict and partisan hostilities, and take the love, healing, forgiveness, and message of salvation out into the world which desperately needs to hear the good news.  I pray we will not retreat, but rather engage filled with love for God and for each other.