Cool Wave

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rk5gRgaeQ_M]
Above Video is of Snowfall in Chicago Yesterday.

Today a wave of cool air spread across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, bringing a dry and refreshing breeze. No snow for us, but it was only a few short years ago that it snowed on Christmas Day … in Pascagoula! I am one of those who love cold weather, so I’ll take cool! I’m jealous of my friends to the North and West who are enjoying the early snowfall. Of course I’ve never had to live in it and deal with all of the consequences.

It has been so exciting to have relief workers in during the past week or so. They bring with them a spark of energy we have truly missed during the past five or six weeks with no helpers. Because of a problem we had I was unable to update our church website for a while. I was able to get our work crew report caught up today.  We have workers scheduled through next July. That is so exciting!

Our teens are on a retreat out at Gulf Coast Bible Camp tonight. It’s perfect weather for a retreat. I know they will have a great time and learn something as they listen to Will Collins and Brittany Fish. Will and Brittany were recently engaged and I feel that God will use them in enormous ways in the Kingdom. They have such good hearts and they are followers of the Master.

Tonight we watched A Prairie Home Companion, the movie. I think fans of the radio show will enjoy the movie. I think everyone else will wonder why this movie was made. As it was I was disappointed that there was no ‘Lake Wobegon Days’ monologue. It was an interesting story, a device that gave us entrance into the world of the production of the show without seeming like a documentary. Legendary Robert Altman is the director and the all-star cast is delightful. The soundtrack is folksy and homespun, just like that which is sent out over the airwaves every week. Imaginative, but ultimately not very interesting if you didn’t arrive to the movie ready to enjoy the experience.

There are many words we have overused to such a point that they have lost all meaning. “Love” can be that way. It is a word we use much too loosely. Another word is “Awesome”. Everything’s “awesome”. You know we do not call our ministers “reverend” because that is a term that is reserved for God (Psalm 111:9, KJV). Not that it’s a title … just a description. But because of that description we do not call men by that name. “Awesome” is a term that describes God in many ways in Scripture, but we do not hesitate to tell people that they are awesome, that what they did was awesome, that a circumstance is awesome or that a plate of food is awesome. When talking about food and sports, we combine these divine adjectives: “Wow, that’s awesome, I love that!” We still do not use ‘reverend’ that way. But none of those is the overused word which has my attention tonight.

Church. That’s the word. It is sometimes a noun, such as, “we are going to church” – referring to the building or else the worship service. I have heard it used as a threatening verb (“Your father is going to church you when he finds out what you did!”). We often, correctly, take note that the church is the people, not the building. I have heard from the time that I was a child that if the building burned to the ground or was destroyed by a tornado, we could meet under a tree and be just as much the Church as we were before. “Church” can become a doctrine. Marks of the true church, What is the church, The origin of the church, and who began the church are all topics I heard from preachers as I grew up. It should be recognized that as far as we know the early church did not own property or buildings. We only assume that it is allowable to own buildings, the Scripture is silent on the issue. Even though the Scriptures never mention these convenient places to assemble, some even have rules on what can and cannot happen within these buildings. Some have rules about the allowable attire of those serving the Supper. Some will not allow meals to be served in their buildings. Some will not allow a woman to speak within those hallowed halls. Many go to church buildings in order to pray because they sense it is in some way a holy place. It seems to me that all of life changes when we walk through those doors and we imagine that we are somehow in some kind of world where the normal things of life are put aside in order to do everything ‘decently and in order’ (a phrase so often misued that it has lost much of its meaning). With all of the emphasis we place upon church buildings, it is no wonder that “going to church” is a deeply ingrained feature of our vocabulary.

After Hurricane Katrina, we waited almost 14 months to make any real improvements on our church building. Like things are in every church, there was a mixed review of this strategy. Some liked it, some didn’t. However, the leaders were committed to the relief effort and helping people before we fixed up our auditorium.  Now that we are earnestly involved in repairing our building and we could see some major progress in a very short period of time, I want to be especially mindful that we do not forget what the church is. We have been studying through the book of Acts on Sunday mornings and noticing that the church is a Spirit-Filled family of believers who are committed to sharing the gospel with the lost world. Without our mission to reach the lost world, the church is nothing but a country club … or an educational facility … or a club made up of nice people who do nice things together. The true nature of the church is to be found in the places where Jesus found himself … at the table of winebibbers and gluttons, being annointed by whores, offering eternal life to thieves and divorcees.

What a disappointing ministry it can be. You invest in the down-and-out, and they leave you high-and-dry. You spend time and energy bringing a blessing to their lives, and in return you discover their lack of interest in the Lord who taught you to be a servant. Though it is true that the rich and middle-class folks sin and have a multitude of problems that only Jesus can solve, it is also true that the poor have lost their dignity and often do not have the resources to hide their sin from your eyes. It takes a lot of strength and guts to walk away from addiction. It takes a lot of humility and trust to speak openly about the struggle. The church is called to dine at the table with these broken souls, ministering to them from our experience. Yes, we are all broken souls. Sometimes we see wonderful transformations, sometimes they run away in shame and we never see them again. Either way, we are called to be the church … the body of Christ living out the Kingdom of God in our daily lives. We are a Spirit-filled people committed to sharing the good news of Jesus with lost people.

And that’s why the concepts of the church being the right organization that was started at the right time by the right people with the right rule of law is powerless by itself. When we focus on doing everything in the RIGHT way, we are overlooking the fact that it is our calling to reach out to the WRONG kind of people. That kind of thinking about the church produces people who come to a place expecting to receive affirmations that they believe correctly. Never have we been so close and yet so far.

These thoughts are not directly related to the renovation of our auditorium. They are specifically aimed at my own heart, and the hearts of our congregation. Will we embrace the mission of Jesus or not? Pretty walls and seating will not get the job done, nor will it hurt the effort. They are neutral aspects of the situation.

Well, this is getting long. And it’s the weekend, so I know that fewer people will be dropping by to read. So I thank you for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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