Monday, February 17, 2020

By Rev. Dr. Dave deFreese

As we begin a new year, let me offer an unusual blessing: “May God grant you the gift of holy discontent in the year ahead!”

Why in the world would anyone wish that, especially for someone they care for? Because it is a gift. To have holy discontent is to see need and to respond with hope. Holy discontent causes us to be fully alive to the struggles around us and to be motivated to make a change that is for the good. When we recognize injustice, God uses holy discontent to make the world we share better.

Holy discontent was the catalyst that gave birth to Mosaic 107 years ago. Pastor K.G. William Dahl had a dear friend, Gustav, who had epilepsy. Gustav had a seizure in public and was immediately incarcerated. Pastor Dahl went to see his friend and was heartbroken to see him naked, in a cell and humiliated. Out of that wrenching experience, Pastor Dahl said no one should be treated so, and Mosaic was begun as a community of acceptance for those who struggled to fit in society. Think of the lives touched and changed by that holy discontent.

Holy discontent stirred Susan Crawford to design Rejoicing Spirits. Sitting in worship on a Sabbath, she noticed the lack of persons living with obvious disabilities as a part of the faithful gathered. Knowing this was not natural nor a picture of the community in which she lived, she sought to offer an opportunity for people of all abilities to worship and grow together. Rejoicing Spirits was born, and its impact for enhancing the Church has been profound. Valued voices have been invited to share, and the Church has become more whole.

These are days of increasing apathy and unprecedented complacency that has given rise to a dangerous meanspiritedness in our society. The Church is not immune. A recent study by the National Survey of Children’s Health found that “American churches are failing to meet the needs of children with cognitive and conduct disorders.” Researcher Andrew Whitehead concluded: “This population is unseen because they never show up, or when they do, they have a negative experience and never return.” Author and mother of two children with Down syndrome, Heather Avis writes: “I’ve met countless other parents who have stopped going to church once they have a child with a different ability. The environment was just too difficult for their child to navigate and they did not feel welcomed anymore. Christian churches must do a better job.”

Holy discontent compels our God-given gravitational pull toward goodness to long for a more loving difference. These positive yearnings in the midst of negative circumstances unleash compassion. We hunger for something to right all that feels so wrong; in a time when disconnection seems epidemic, we seek connectedness. When people seem increasingly immune to others’ pain, holy discontent drives gospel-oriented people to generate powerful ripples of compassion, acceptance and joy.

Thank you for your efforts to express hope and care, to invite others in, and to be the Church for the sake of the world. Thank you for Rejoicing Spirits.

May God grant you the gift of holy discontent in the year ahead!

Rejoicing with you!