Daily Devotion - Friday, November 20, 2015
This week all of our Daily Devotions will be reflecting on the sermon that I preached this past Sunday at my church, the First Presbyterian Church of Eustis--a sermon entitled, "Three Chairs." We believe our church has a rich history, a vibrant present and a hopeful future. Not all churches or communities of faith feel that way, though. Over the course of this week we'll be getting to the bottom of how that can change.
Some time ago I was asked by my regional denominational representatives to assist a small church who did not have a pastor. They needed an ordained minister to moderate their elder board meeting, and I agreed to do it. It was an aging congregation that had begun to shrink some years ago, but had recently fallen to under a hundred active members.
The topic that drew the most debate in their meeting that night was how to secure their church campus from the young teens and pre-teens who were using it to play and skateboard. The discussion turned to insurance and liability, and whether there were enough funds available to put in gates that locked.
I wanted to say to them, "Wait a minute! Just a little while ago, you were saying how much you wished that there were younger families coming to your church---and God is dropping kids at your doorstep! Why don't you find ways to minister to those kids instead of locking them out?"
I had a revelation in that moment, though, that kept me from saying anything at all. I realized that there was a huge difference between what they were saying they wanted for their church and actually living into it. The feeling that overwhelmed me in that moment was one of sadness and futility. Nothing that I would have said to them would have made any difference.
I have come to believe that the reason so many people have given up on the Church is because their local church has essentially given up on them.
When you take a look at Jesus' disciples you get a glimpse at the kind of openness that Jesus calls us to embrace when it comes to our faith communities. First he called a bunch of fisherman, who were uneducated and kind of rough around the edges. Then he called a tax collector who used to extort extra money out of the aforementioned fisherman. He also had an ultra-religious and nationalistic guy on his team as well as a political activist and revolutionary who was referred to as "the Zealot."
These guys would have probably beaten each other to death in the street had they not been called by Jesus to pull together. They were about as different as you could get from one another. But the love of Christ made them one.
Far too many Christians suffer from what I like to call the "Us Four & No More" mentality when it comes to doing church. They'll wring their hands over the lack of new people among them, but what they are really wringing their hands over is the lack of new people who are like them. The prospect of actually welcoming someone who is different is too frightening.
We can live differently--we have to live differently.
May you go out into the world today ready to embrace those who are different, who are on the margins, who have questions, struggles and who are decidedly not at all like you. May you show grace and peace, and the love of Jesus Christ to them. May you show them that the Church is still open--and ready to welcome them as they are. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.