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From the Pulpit: What does it mean to be real?

May 19, 2019

“‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’ ‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit. ‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ ‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ ‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ’You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

This is one of those children’s books that I get choked up when I read it. The velveteen rabbit wants to be loved and to be real. The worn horse comments that by the time you become real, you will have “most of your hair loved off and your eyes will drop out and you’ll get loose and shabby.” Some of us would say we are way more real than we really want to be already! I feel worn and shabby at the end of day.

What does it mean to be real or relevant? Relevant means: “Appropriate to the current time, period, or circumstances; of contemporary interest.” We are to be appropriate to the current time. We are to be aware of our culture, the people around us, our communities, the circumstances of those around us and the interests in our culture at this time.

We want to be real and relevant. That means we don’t put off a false picture of who we are or what we believe, and it also means we don’t hide ourselves away from the culture, but become a voice of kindness, of truth, of love to the culture and the people around us.

We become real to those who come across us — we get worn out in serving, we become shabby, and our eyes pop out. We lose our shine — on the outside — without losing the light on the inside. We love people like Jesus did.

Jesus said he didn’t come for the righteous, he came for sinners. You can find this passage in Mark 2. What I have most loved about this passage is that after he chose to follow Jesus, he invited Jesus to his house to meet all his friends — a party. Jesus came and didn’t condemn anyone. Jesus came as the honored guest and enjoyed himself. He met Matthew’s friends, introduced himself and had fun. In fact, he was having so much fun that the “teachers of the religious law” were offended! They turned to each other and said, “Look at him. How can he eat with those people? If he is really a holy man, how could he dirty himself by associating with such lowlifes? Such scum — such sinners.”

The religious leaders of Jesus day had lost sight of the “real thing” that love is much more than “rules to live by.” Love is loving people right where they are — sins and all! There are no exclusions to that statement. Being relevant to our world is loving people where they are. That means we love the sinners as well as the “righteous.”

When people come to church, they don’t have to be “fixed” and they don’t have to be “cleaned up.” People are messy. Ministry is messy. Jesus’ followers were messy. Jesus was accused of being a drunk because he hung around people who drank too much. He was accused of being a glutton, because he hung around people who were overeating.

Jesus was among the common people so he could hear their concerns and give them hope. He didn’t sit in a classroom — he was on the hillside. He didn’t only preach from a pulpit — he went out and served alongside his disciples. He fed the masses both food and hope. He healed physical and well has spiritual needs. Jesus’ ministry was comprehensive. Together with preaching the gospel He interacted with his community. He lived and worked among the “people.”

This past month, Rochester Mayor Kim Norton declared a Random Acts of Kindness day. There were several community events you could be involved with: a pediatric book drive, a winter outerwear collection drive, free haircuts for low-income and free and reduced lunch families, help at community food response, collect and drop off pet food and supplies to help families that just don’t have enough money to continue to care for their pets, and lastly there is a “Radical Kindness” Art Display.

It is nice to have a day set aside, but wouldn’t it be better if that was something we sought to live out each day? Being real means we need to know our community and the issues that are a part of it. Being real is a core value to the Christian faith. Because we want to be like Jesus and love people just like he did, we want to be real enough that when they see us, they only see Jesus.

Being real mattered to our Savior — it must matter to us!