Monday, November 23, 2015

who will make the introduction?

This post was originally published here in March 2013.  As our church wraps up a series on what it means to be 'the church' I was reminded of these words.  I believe with my whole heart that the church is to be the bearer of hope for the world.  We get it wrong a lot of the time but I will never stop trying to get it right.  If we don't, who will?
I wish I could have held her hands in mine and looked deep into her eyes - unafraid of what was hiding there.  Did I pass her on the street?  Did I bump into her in the grocery store?  Did I walk right by unaware of the war that was being waged for her heart?


Sometimes people we pass seem so distant from us - so out of our reach.  There appears to be no thread to connect us - nothing that could hold us together for anything beyond a simple exchange of pleasantries.  

But she was a writer.  

Had I seen her all dressed in black with face downcast I wouldn't have thought to ask -  do you love words?  Do they sing you to sleep and whisper you to wake?  Do they venture into deep places no one else wants to go?  Do they give you breath and then turn around and take it back away?

The words could have connected us - could have made a way for two distant souls with generations between us to cross a bridge to one another.  In our meeting I would have offered her words.  the 'I know what it feels like to experience deep pain and grief' words.  the 'I've felt lost and alone too' words.  the 'I have messed up so many times in my own life' words.
Those words would all be my own.  

But then like a carefully chosen gift wrapped in glossy paper with a big soft bow holding it together I would offer His words.

The King is enthralled by your beauty; honor Him, for He is your Lord. {psalm 45:11}

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  I know this is true because all His works are wonderful and you are one of those works.  In a secret place He made you - seeing every bit of who you were and who you would be.  {from psalm 139:14-16}

You want to become someone's princess?  You already are!  We have a King who calls us chosen, holy, dearly loved.  He adopts us as His children and calls us heirs to all that is His.  His love will never fail you.  {from 1 timothy 1:17, colossians 3:12, romans 8:17, psalm 136}

This gift sits unwrapped.  

A few days ago the writer heart of a teenage girl stopped beating just two miles from where I would be working and worshipping later that morning.  What was I doing when the train struck her body?  Was I taking a shower?  Kissing my kids goodbye?  Going about life as usual?

Our pastor asked our staff to reflect on how this story spoke to us and the work we do as a church.  For me - it spoke volumes, but I find myself left with more questions than answers.

How do we open wide our doors to the ones with questions?  How do we open wide our arms to the ones with wounds so raw?  How do we open wide our mouths to the ones seeking truth in this world of false?

I want a place where lost and lonely people know they are welcome just as they are - with all their questions and wounds and false beliefs.  I want a place for someone to completely fall apart, and then slowly be put back together.

There is such a place.  
It is at the feet of the One who came to claim every last, lost one of us.  

How do we make our place more His place?  How do we sweep aside our human ideas of what 'church' should be and make room for the spirit of the living God to show up and offer the kind of hope and healing that doesn't come from our whole human hands but from His pierced divine ones?

I begin finding answers in the words my pastor led us to in response to the death of Arielle Troutman - a beautiful 16-year-old girl who lost hope right around the corner from the place we desperately try to offer it.

...and then I found {a shrine} inscribed, TO THE GOD NOBODY KNOWS.  
I'm here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you're dealing with.  The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn't live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn't take care of himself.  He makes the creatures; the creatures don't make him.  Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after him, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him.  He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us.  He's not remote; He's near.  We live and move in him, can't get away from him!  
One of your poets said it well: 'we're the God-created.'  
Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn't make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?  
{Acts 17:23-28, MSG}

And so we must stop spending all our time making shrines for those safe inside our walls.  
Instead we must start making introductions to those wandering aimlessly outside of them.
  
It's easy to start believing that everyone has already met the One we call Savior.  
It's easy to assume our God is known.  
It's easy to judge people whom we conclude are making bad decisions despite the light of God's truth shining on them, when the reality is that they are still groping around in complete darkness. 

And all around us people are dying.  
They are dying, because they know drugs.  
They know alcohol.  
They know pornography.  
They know infidelity.  
They know reality t.v.  
They know abuse.  
They know heartbreak.  
They know 'the American way'...
   ...but they don't know our God.
  
If we don't make the introduction...who will?