As of this writing, New York City has once again become the target of a terrorist attack. By God’s great mercy, no one was hurt severely. With that thought in mind, New Yorkers, in a kind of defiance to those who would seek to strike fear into this great metropolitan city, got back to being about their business rather quickly. This attack, unlike others, will end up as nothing more than a historical footnote, but we also know this probably won’t be the last attack. Still, we move on, living our lives, going to work, shopping, etc…
Nowadays, when someone walks through these great cement corridors, we can’t help but see the presence of greater security than what we’ve been used to. Law Enforcement, armed to the teeth, bomb sniffing dogs, and even civilians watching their surroundings with ever-vigilant eyes, for anything suspicious worth reporting. Still, despite all that, there is no way to hide how vulnerable we truly are here in the city. No one is laser-focused all the time. With millions of people cruising this city, playing and working among its skyscrapers, there’s just no way to stay completely safe, or to be completely sure things will go on like normal, day in and day out.
Though the staunchest atheist may disagree, it seems most of us walk these city streets with a degree of quiet faith. Faith is a confidence or trust in someone or something. It is by that “faith” that we walk these streets and ride public transportation. We trust nothing will happen as we travel, whether over bridges or in subways. We trust in the job law enforcement does to keep us safe. Sure, we might have a hint of fear and careful wonder in our surroundings as we move about, but still we move, putting a full day in at the office or spending a day out holiday shopping. We believe whole-heartedly, at the end of the day, we will rest comfortably in our homes, readying ourselves to do it all over again in the morning.
This recent attack reminds me how vulnerable we are in church. Epiphany, where I attend and help minister, sits right in the middle of a NYC street, between 1st and 2nd Ave. Even on the cold days, the really cold days, it is our happy habit to leave our church door open during much of the service. We do this because we know the sanctuary is striking to behold and it catches the eye of someone interested in such things. We also do it because the music, so beautifully arranged, draws people in. This combination often calls to the passersby to stop, even backtrack a few steps, and take a peek inside to see this grand old sanctuary, or stop and hear the sweets sounds of hymns and other songs playing. This combination has begun many a conversation. If that’s too seeker-sensitive for some, well, too bad.
So, the doors remain open, and I stand in the back with a stack of worship folders in my hand, ever ready to hand them out, but also stand there feeling as if I am the first line of defense. I won’t close those doors, but I will be aware and ready, because I know how vulnerable we make ourselves with the doors swung wide.
And I wouldn’t change a thing…
If there is any truer picture of what the church should be. it’s that picture of the door swung wide, open and welcoming, even and especially to the worst that might care to walk through those doors. We remember that we were the “worst” at one point in our lives. At times, we still are those broken and vulnerable, needing someone to come and lead us in through that open door. We step through those open doors, learning and hearing about someone -a Savior- who says to us, “you are loved forever. Come hide in that love.” Those doors remain open, despite the danger or any fear, because they are meant to be open to all.
As the church, we should accept vulnerability as a lifestyle choice. Opening our lives up to those, who like us, come looking just as ugly, and just as covered in the stain of sin that we were, and at times, still are.
Ask any missionary, home or abroad, they’ll tell you they are not doing safe things. What they are doing is not just recognizing they are vulnerable, they are taking the doors off. They are choosing to be more vulnerable, more open. Most of us know in the back of our mind, that anything can happen. For the sake of Christ, some live this out in a reality that we can’t possible grasp in a regular day-to-day life. I know I can’t. Whether it’s a third world country that lack the resources we have here, or interjecting ourselves into the rescue effort of human trafficking here in the U.S., there is a vulnerability level we push past for the greater good.
For all the “big picture” ministries, it’s just as important to stretch the boundaries of our vulnerability in simple day-to-day relationships. Sometimes, we take a friend in who is struggling, trusting him in our home, because he needs that kind of love and care. Sometimes it’s in a “me too” conversation, letting someone know you’ve had those same dark, and hard to speak of, struggles. It’s opening the door of your life and allowing people to see the real you, the normal you, the not perfect you, and even the downright ugly you.
Vulnerability, is the lifeblood of the church extended. It is, “boots on the ground” living among the world. It is messy and uncomfortable and you never know what can happen at any moment. There is that aspect of faith in opening yourself up to these experiences, that may cause you to struggle and doubt a little, but still says, I trust you Lord in the midst of it all. Even if it looks ugly and unholy in comparison to anything else.
As I close out this final message for the New Year, I encourage you to join me in this effort to be dangerously vulnerable. Wherever you live, whatever you do, allow yourselves to be open. Let people walk through the doors of your life. Find ways to love and care for them. It’s messy but it’s worth it. I promise you. It’s worth it for the opportunity to simply serve your neighbor. It’s worth it for the opportunity to share the Gospel.
Finally, if you are able we’d love to have your support as we move forward in NYC. Every little bit helps and we are making sure the majority of any contribution goes directly into the ministry of the gospel here.
If you’d like to know more about our church, our pastor, maybe listen to some of his sermons, and read his other writings, check out our website by clicking the name below. If you’d like to help us out financially, go to the website, and click the menu and when it drops down click on the “GIVE” button.
you can also find us and give via VENMO. Look us up there at @EpiphanyLutheranNYC