Invitation: Faith is a Roller Coaster

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Who doesn’t love roller coasters?

OK, lots of people don’t, but I sure do. One of my favorites is the Superman ride at Six Flags in Gurnee, Illinois. Once a rider is strapped in, your arms and legs are free, and your torso is harnessed so that your back is to the track and you are facing outward. As the track soars, swoops, and twists you get a superhero-eye’s view of the sky and earth – a childhood fantasy come to life.

The first time I rode it the line was two hours long. The day and the company were pleasant, but still I had a queasy feeling replacing the usual excitement. Part of the fun of a coaster ride is the fear and feeling of survival, but for some reason the fear was more intense than usual. I hadn’t been to an amusement park in years, and had put on a lot of weight since the last visit. Part of me was irrationally convinced I was too heavy for the ride. Voices and visions of snapping gears and the rapidly approaching ground filled my mind. Other people heavier than me were getting on and safely returning, but reality wasn’t reassuring. I considered ditching the line and waiting for my friends.

Unlike Superman, I can’t deflect bullets, but once in a while I can bite them. Sweating and nauseated, I said a little prayer as the attendant secured me into the ride and launched us down the track.

It was the best coaster ride I’ve ever been on, and you can bet I’ve been back. Why the irrational fear? It’s because I wasn’t who I thought I should be, and let my insecurities tell me lies about where I belonged.

Church can be that way.

Some people don’t come to church because they believe they aren’t good enough. Or others come to church and believe the invitation to the communion table couldn’t possibly include them, even when the attendant tells them it does. In their minds, somehow their sins and shortcomings are weightier than the sins of everybody else in the crowd. They may even believe God has forgiven far worse sins than theirs, but for some reason they are still afraid. This attitude may seem like humility, but in truth it requires an enormous ego to believe your burdens are the only ones in creation God can’t lift off you. You just aren’t that special.

But you are beloved by God. Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17 and Matthew 9:12) Your sins and imperfections are not barriers between you and Christ: they are doors. The bigger your issue, the wider your door. You just need to be willing to open it.

Faith has lots of ups and downs, twists and turns. It can be exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Through it all, no matter your burdens, God will be strong enough to carry you. Strap in and come to the table.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

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