Friday, July 27, 2012

What a mess...

I saw a watercolour painting once of 2 children and their father sitting together reading a story surrounded by the scattered debris of toys and pillows and clothes on the bedroom floor. In the midst of a mess was a simple act of love.

In Ephesians 3:14-21 Paul is reminding us of a similar act of love.In the midst of our messy selves and lives...our failures and failings...our sins and self-righteousness...we are suddenly reminded that our true name comes from our true Father, God. That our inner strength comes from outside of us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  And most importantly...that we are loved not because of our goodness, but because Christ makes his home in our hearts. This is a love that is so broad, high, deep and long that it transcends our understanding. It is a love which we can never fully know or understand. Yet it is the very love that claims the midst of our messy lives.  Thank God for that!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Only yourself to blame...

These words were posted in the the temple in Jerusalem...

No outsider shall enter the protective enclosure around the sanctuary. And whoever is caught will only have himself to blame for the ensuing death.

They served as a warning to the Gentiles not to enter the inner courtyards of the temple that were reserved for the Jews. Several sources noted that the Romans permitted the Jews to enact the death penalty for anyone who breached this directive, including any Roman citizen. Talk about harsh!

But then, after some thought, it struck me that similar words could easily be posted over the doors of our church buildings today.  OK, maybe we won't enact the death penalty, and I am sure that the local constabulary and legal system would not look kindly on us if we did, but there are other ways to cause someone's death. Isolation. Rejection. Expulsion. Soul destroying unkindness. Lack of compassion.  You probably get the picture by now. And, quite smugly, we would point out that they only have themselves to blame. It's not never is.  That person just didn't quite fit in our community. They didn't share our vision. They were disruptive...and so it goes. 

Too many times our 'church communities' are really just 'church clubs' with very exclusive memberships. Ironically, even within the 'clubs' are the 'cliques', those little sub-groups that vie for control and power within many congregations. Then we wonder why our congregations do not grow or why people are not attracted to join us.  Of what possible benefit is there?  The Gospel, for all the preaching, is not living or, at least, not living well in a faith community that is divided thus.  

In direct contrast to this sad state of affairs are the words of Paul from Ephesians 2:19:

So then, you Gentiles are not foreigners or strangers any longer' you are now citizens together with God's people and members of the family of God

Paul writes these as a statement of fact. This is what we are. This is what the work of Jesus was all about. So if our churches are anything less than this...well the inscription says we only have ourselves to blame.