Sensory Overload

Fluorescent lights flicker, hum.

Watches beep, declare the time.

Pages flip and rustle like dead leaves.

People breathe, cough, sigh.

Fingers unzip, rummage, re-zip a purse.

Bright, loud clothes punctuate the room.

Air conditioners hum and blow.

Teacher drones in monotone, on and on.

Restless feet tap out syncopated rhythms.

Lips sip, slurp, swallow hot coffee.

The minute hand creeps toward twelve.

My mind splinters in a dozen directions.

See You Later

Written in memory of Emily McElroy, 1938-2010
Friend, sister in Christ, and mentor.

Cancer. Believers gather- worship, sing, comfort.
Prayers of strength and healing are lifted to heaven.
Kisses and hugs of hope are given before we part.
No goodbyes here– “See you later.”

Resting on the couch I stroke her thinning hair.
I whisper comfort to her when nausea overtakes.
Prayers of salvation and healing float on the air.
See you later.

Sunday morning worship- a church of just three.
Communion of saints in a granny’s sickbed.
Honesty, truth, and a newly bald head.
See you later.

Long conversations have now turned shorter.
Culminate with prayers of hope and thanks.
I rub her bald head before I walk out the door.
See you later.

I walk through the chapel, down the aisle alone.
The pews are filled with mourning friends.
Pausing at the front, I look upon her still form.
See you later.

The cemetery is cold in the heart of winter.
Fresh soil breaks the monotony of yellowed grass.
Standing in front of her name I repeat once more,
See you later.

If you build it, they will come?

“If you build it, they will come.” For decades, this quote from Field of Dreams has also seemed to apply to many churches. The era of the mega-church has tried to teach us that if we build the biggest, prettiest, shiniest building, then people will come to us.  There’s no need to go out into the communities, neighborhoods, and slums.  If we have light shining through the stained glass windows of our city on a hill, then the people who need it will see it and come to us for the word, truth, and life.  Right?

I can’t help but compare this style of ministry to the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus walked, ate, and slept with the people who needed him.  Not the wealthy, educated, or best-dressed, but the poor, downtrodden, sick, and outcast.  There are several stories of Jesus going out to the people who needed him.  When nobody else would dare get close to the leper or prostitute that was hurting from years of neglect and abuse, He touched them and showed them mercy.

Sometimes I think that large, pretentious church buildings scare off the people who need to hear the message of Jesus the most.  Rather than the light on the hill that waits for the needy to come to it and receive sight, the church has to learn to be the feet of Jesus that go out into the hard, unpopular places of this world.  I wonder sometimes about what would happen if churches took even a portion of the money, time, and resources that they put into buildings, maintenance, and other areas to keep up appearances and put it into missions and community outreach programs that meet people where they are.  We might start looking more like Jesus– the Lord who came to earth to wash feet, eat with sinners, and touch the untouchables.

Whitewashed Sepulchers

The title of this blog is derived from Matthew 23:27-28– “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

The leadership of our church decided several months ago to change the name of the church building since it was named after the streets the building was originally at the corners of, and the street names had changed in the last century. Under my breath, I said that the Church of the Whitewashed Sepulcher would be perfect- pretty on the outside, but a lot of old bones on the inside. But, of course, the congregation decided to simply change the name to match the name of the street the building currently sits on. How pointless. I saw so much opportunity with the change of a name to change the hearts and attitudes underneath, to make a statement of change, grace, and fresh starts. You can paint over a tomb, but it still holds decaying old bones.