"Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God." - Isaiah 40:1
One of the churches I serve recently got some media attention. As often happens when progressive communities of faith are in the news, there were lots of positive responses and a few negative ones.
By far the most irritating idea for the negative folks was that we were reaching out to those who felt uncomfortable in traditional church settings.
As one commenter put it, "I can't find in God's Word anywhere where what He [sic] says is worship is what makes us comfortable...God is interested in us becoming Christlike. Not comfortable in this world."
I am tempted to point out that it is precisely the straight, white, cisgendered, lifelong church members who write such comments (people a lot like me) who are the most comfortable in traditional mainline worship. That people like them (and me) could stand to be a little lot less comfortable about things as they are. It would not be untrue.
But that's not about the comfort God offers. God doesn't comfort us in our exclusion, our injustice, or our defense of systemic oppression. God doesn't comfort us in our complacency, our complicity, or our sin.
But God does comfort us. Or at least longs to.
When I arrive in worship most weeks, I am anxious, exhausted, fearful. And sometimes – many times – God meets me there, gathers me under that great wing and comforts me.
Yes, God challenges me. Yes, God calls me to change and grow. And yes, God is calling me to work for a changed world: a world in which everyone can worship in comfort.
Tender one, may I never deny to another the loving embrace I find in you.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.