Oh my aching comfort zone! This morning my file folder ripped and a bunch of stuff filed out onto the floor. There was an article by Plantinga on how do we know if we are REALLY -- I mean REALLY -- real followers of Jesus. What it comes down to is whether I'm willing to pay the COST. Do my "good deeds" COST me something? Am I willing to accept the pain of being newly alive in Jesus and growing to be more like him? Is Christ being formed in me, as Paul puts it.... (Gal 4:19) Well, see, I hate to be repetitious here, but....God's at work on me, banging away at my comfort zone, chipping away at the edges, forcing me to keep putting my book down, and getting out of my easy chair. What if the path of discipleship runs through the garden of inconvenience and annoyance instead of the garden of earthly delights? OK, I knew that. "Flowery beds of ease" I used to sing about when I was growing up and learning to love the bass lines of the hymns. I know that we are supposed to take up our cross; I know that life is nothing but a constant death (as the old Communion form used to say). And I know that duty and responsibility should mark the Christian's life. I'm as dutiful as the next Calvinist, and by cracky, I'm responsible too. As long as it doesn't push me TOO far out of my comfort zone! Big dramatic obedience? You bet. I'm all over it. Daily acts of sacrifice that clearly communicate patience, kindness, goodness? Well, OK, but only up to the point where obedience doesn't get in the way of my time and my space and my pleasure. I need the deacons in my church to help me think a little tougher about what it means to be a neighbor. I need the deacons in my church to keep the the poor in our community up front for me. I need the deacons in my church to keep taking me by the hand to walk the streets and get to know folks, and pray with them, and hurt with them when they hurt. I need the deacons in my church to hold my toe to the match when what I really, really want to do is curl up with my book and say, "I did enough today." Why do I get to decide that all by myself? I'm worried. I'm worried about the vitality of my own faith which, lacking works, might begin to decay. I'm worried about my church - we are GREAT caregivers to each other, but we are only beginners at knowing how to care for the complexities of the needs of our urban neighbors. I"m worried about the CRC. For generations we've sent missionaries, built institutions, trained our youth, led vibrant theological discussions, and celebrated the Lordship of Jesus Christ over every square inch..... but when our neighbors are hungry for community, for acceptance, for meaning and for belonging, we might not have just the right set of values and commitments..... but then I hear about the family that has their Muslim neighbors over for a meal regularly. And I hear about food pantries that expand to be places of relationship building and family mentoring. And I hear about churches who are able to welcome and become home for people who are not "like us".... and I feel hope..... and I smile.... and I think the deaconal DNA in the CRC is still there. And I feel excitement, because I know that I want to be part of that!