Nothing but “little old ladies”

Erika Haub links to a post by William Willimon, “Divine Wisdom Among ‘Little Old Ladies'”.  This expresses my heart. There are no small people in the business of doing God’s will. Churches don’t have to wait to be something different than they are to be in the center of God’s will. They don’t have to have certain kinds of people with certain kinds of incomes and certain kinds of gifts and certain kinds of influence and certain kinds of looks and certain kinds of whatever.  Ain’t it grand!!!!!!!!

The Good Shepherd – Movie Review

Edward Wilson, the only witness to his father’s suicide and member of the Skull and Bones Society while a student at Yale, is a morally upright young man who values honor and discretion, qualities that help him to be recruited for a career in the newly founded Office of Strategic Services (OSS, the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency). While working there, his ideals gradually turn to suspicion influenced by the Cold War paranoia present within the office. Eventually, he becomes an influential veteran operative, while his distrust of everyone around him increases to no end. His dedication to his work does not come without a price though, leading him to sacrifice his ideals and eventually his family. The movie revolves around the advice given to him by a veteran spy, “Get out while you still have a soul.”

This movie is based on the real life character of James Angleton, who co-founded the CIA. His secret weapon is silence. He watches and listens but reveals little. But his secrets are a weapon turned against his own soul. He must not say, reveal, let on. No one can get inside him.

I think we all find this true of ourselves. Our secrets are turned against us. I am not talking primarily about our secret sins. I am referring to the things we believe, value, wish, desire and hope. If we spoke these things it would be like declaring to the world how far short we have fallen, how far away we are from the land to which he had hoped to travel. These things spoken then turn to taunt us. Often we are cowards who do not have the courage to live out of God-given abilities to see possibilities and then pursue them.

And so we watch life, see and do the ordinary – but keep our mouths shut about how we wanted (and want) it to be. We will talk, but not about hope. We will reveal but not about wishes. We will turn our conversation to the things here and now but not to the “what if’s” and the “maybe’s.”

I hope you can tell someone your secret. There is probably someone(s) who would want to help.

God Uses Cracked Churches (and maybe whacked ones, too)

I’ve been thinking! (Uh-oh, I can hear my wife say!!) So much of our comfort in this life is that God gets His work done by using our weaknesses. The very things that disqualify us in the eyes of others God is pleased to use to bring glory to Himself. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at…So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.” (2Co 4, Message)

Paul knew deeply that God was not going to use the humanly impressive to perform His miracles of grace. He made this point to the Corinthian church that was so taken up with human credentials and outward show:  “Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have–right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start–comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, ‘If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.'” (1Co 1:26-31)

So here is my point. If flawed individuals have a big-time role in God’s plan, so do flawed churches. In today’s rush to create the perfect church, the professional church, the latest tools church, the hip and with it church, the most ‘wow’ experiences per square foot church, the most outwardly impressive church perhaps we have rushed headlong, without thinking, into creating the very thing that will guarantee that we do not succeed. Maybe the thing that people need to see most from the church is not its ability to overcome the guest with its impressiveness but its neediness – its absolute need for grace and mercy and its capacity to understand that others have that same need, too.

I wonder if we are communicating this in our suburban setting as we serve among people with finely-tuned tastes and highly-tweaked consumer profiles. Have we been duped? Are we playing the “our church is as good as the Filenes you shop in” routine? Are we so good that the guest cannot figure out why people like us would ever desperately need God as any thing other than a homeowner improvement project but not as a foundation to an entire new way of life?

No, I am not arguing for sloppiness, sloth and carelessness in church life and ministry. I am simply pointing to the paranoia of churches filled with the constant dread of never being good enough, up-to-date enough, whatever enough. Maybe it’s not about the “enough” at all. Maybe it’s about simply being a community of people plucked from darkness and the pit and whose feet have been set on a Rock. Maybe it’s about people who could have never gotten their act together enough for that to happen on their own. Maybe it’s about having been rescued and living life in gratitude and humble service. Maybe it’s not about telling the community how good we are but about how much we found grace and acceptance. And then perhaps the church would fill up not with people who have fine tastes in churches but deep hungers for God.

Like I said, I’ve been thinking.