Jesus at the National Prayer Breakfast

Sorry I haven’t posted recently. I’ve had lots of things I’ve wanted to write about, but frankly I’ve just been super busy and then last week I was away at The National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. And while I had good intentions to write some posts between meetings, there was so much going on, and I got a cold, and when I had downtime, I slept.

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I had no expectations of the trip. I went because our best friends asked us to go. His family had been involved with the breakfast for a long time. And while I had heard of the breakfast in the news, I didn’t really know anything about it. In fact, prior to meeting Tim and his family, I probably assumed that if politicians were involved then it was probably a generic, watered-down “Christian” type of thing that wouldn’t be of much interest to me.

But last year I sat with Tim and Peggy just hours after they got home from the 2015 breakfast and heard all the things that excited them about the event. And it piqued my interest. (And when you have friends like these who are excited about something and really, really want you to be a part of it, you just go.) (Oh, and Tim doesn’t take “no” for as answer very graciously.) So, since the second week of February last year, the 2016 prayer breakfast has been on our calendar. My parents were good to watch our kids (thanks mom!), so we went. Follow your curiosity!

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There’s a lot I could tell you. I have notes and quotable lines from nearly every speaker. And it’s pretty cool to be in the same room as the President of the United States and hear how he commands a room. And between sessions, Tim’s mom set up great meetings with all kinds of interesting people. But if I had to condense it all into three paragraphs – and let’s be honest, I do need to do that here; you don’t want a novel – here it is:

At the closing dinner on Thursday night there was a comedian named Mike Ashburn. He had us all laughing, then told a beautiful story about his fictional grandma, then finished by having us all sing “Jesus Loves Me.” And as I sang, hot tears started running down my face.  I grabbed Peggy’s dinner napkin away from her, since mine had already been cleared, and wiped my tears. I wasn’t the only one crying, but it felt kind of ridiculous to cry during such a simple song that I’ve probably sung thousands of times in my life. For me, in that moment, I cried because I was reminded that the core of my faith is so simple. It felt like the simplicity that comes after complexity.

The church sometimes is so complicated.  There are organizational issues, leadership challenges, budget constraints, differences in belief, relational conflicts…ugh! Some days it’s just really, really complicated. But the message we heard at the prayer breakfast is that following Jesus simplifies things. Jesus’ message was super simple: love God by loving everyone as we love ourselves.  Yes, that’s sometimes difficult to do, but it’s not complicated.  We only complicate it because we don’t want to do it. We’d rather judge, condemn, distance and smugly assert our “truth.”

At the heart of the prayer breakfast is this fact: in our nation’s Capitol, there are people – namely congressmen and -women, senators, generals – who are so dedicated to Jesus that they’ll lay down all their differences to unite around Jesus in prayer. No, these people don’t wear their faith on their sleeves — you probably don’t even know who they are — and yes, they have a wide range of beliefs about what it means to be followers of Jesus. But following Jesus — doing their best to love God and love people — is at the center of why they gather.

“If a lefty Chicano democrat from Southern California and a conservative judge from Alabama can do it, why can’t you?” Co-host Rep. Juan Vargas (D – California) from the opening remarks with Rep. Robert Aderholt (R- Alabama), talking about joint prayer between republicans and democrats.

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This has been brewing for awhile inside of me, but this week put some things into words for me in my own journey. There’s a simplicity that’s slowly been emerging in my own mind when it comes to my own spiritual journey. Yes, I’m capable of reading thick, complicated tomes on theological nuance. And I’m more than capable of holding my own in a philosophical or theological discussion of many issues. And yet, for the last couple of years, the simplicity of following Jesus has been calling to me. I’m more interested these days in “how do I embrace Jesus’ love and how do I love others,” than I am in, say, theories of atonement. I have a growing conviction that there are no theological exams at the pearly gates, but rather there is only one question that matters: “Are you following Jesus?”

I’m so thankful that I got this opportunity. I’ll be chewing on this for awhile.

 

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