Saturday, October 11, 2014

Afflicting the Comfortable

We are all from somewhere.  Fitchburg, Massachusetts is my hometown and that's where I have centered my work.  I have made Fitchburg my career, you might say.  But Fitchburg is like almost any town.  It has people who love it and people who love to complain about it.  It has community services with low budgets and high need.  It has a struggling downtown with a formerly vibrant past.  And Fitchburg is like its people.  Struggling, but hopeful.  I am here to nudge that hope along.  Not just for my town's sense of hope.  But maybe your hope, too.  It could happen.

It's time to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," as 19th century journalist Finley Peter Dunne once wrote, in a roundabout way.  And I am here to comfort the afflicted.  I am.  It's part of my job.  I may only be in seminary now, but I've been in ministry my whole life.  Not religious ministry.  The ministry of ministering.  The evangelism of doing.  It's about being here for one another.  It's about living a forgiving life.  A compassionate, optimistic, generous, hopeful life.  And that's hard work.  We have to do it together.

The other part of my job is to afflict the comfortable.  Afflicting the comfortable sounds like a preamble to sit-ins, protests, and riots.  Yet I am not an activist.  I am an advocate.  I am an advocate of you.  I believe in you.  And you can say, "You don't even know me."  But it doesn't matter.  I believe in you anyway.  You're here.  You're not done yet.  So that means there's still hope.  No matter where you think you are, you're here.  And I believe in you. 

So what do I mean then by "afflict the comfortable?"  Misery, and pessimism, and anger are faithful companions.  They never let us down.  We get very comfortable with our misery.  We get very comfortable with thinking that things will never change.  If we believe that, that belief is always reinforced.  There's always plenty of available proof that the world is miserable and that things will never change.

So, if you're comfortable with that notion, you'll do one of two things right now.  You'll either stop reading this, or you'll continue.  But know this...  if you continue to listen to me, and if you are one of those who is comfortable in your misery, you will become afflicted for a while before you find your new comfort.  It's sometimes messy business changing your channel.  But it'll be ok.  I promise.  And when you start to feel better, you'll know that it was worth it.  Take a risk.  Be hopeful.

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