By Pastor Stephen Patten
4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.
If we are not out in the world getting our hands dirty, then we are not being church. And by that, I mean knee deep in the pain, suffering, and injustice present in our world. If the church is not in the thick of it, nurturing personal relationships, building vibrant communities, facing injustice with practical action, then what is it that we are actually doing? If our congregations are not experiencing the uncomfortableness of sitting with others whose demographics are unfamiliar and marginalized, then they have yet to experience the resurrected Christ.
Far too many churches call themselves church when, in fact, they are more like social or civic clubs that meet once a week, set certain rules, and distinguish 'members' from 'visitors.' We should not call ourselves church if all we are doing is staring intently at our own reflection each week. Over the course of two thousand years, far too many have labored and died for the cause of the gospel to allow us to cheapen it by claiming that we are doing the same. We are not. We only need to take account of all the things we demand are so important to the life of our church, and attempt to match them with biblical justification. In this, we may find little biblical support for the majority of what we call church.
Have we related with the poor, the sick, the lame, the widow, the prisoner, the naked, the homeless, the mentally ill, the homosexual, the transgendered, our neighbors, the 'strange' parishioner who shows up every week silently slipping into a back pew. Notice how I say 'related with,' not greeted, welcomed, or even served. By this I mean, have we chosen to embark on the patient journey of relationship with these 'others?' Have we reached our hands down into the muck and mire of peoples' lives, have we spat into dirt and made a salve for the wounds and brokenness of our world? Christ did, and we should do no less. For, the privilege of calling ourselves Christian demands more than a legacy of faithful ancestors, fanciful theologies, and ornate real estate. It demands that we "work the works" of the God who sent Christ into the same world that we have been called into. This world cannot be accessed, nor the works of God accomplished, be staying safely entombed in our "houses of worship." We are called, instead, to leave these safe havens behind and venture out, just as Christ left the synagogue for the dusty villages of Galilee. We are called to get our holy hands dirty, that they might know us by the calluses we develop, worn from the work of being church to a tired and broken world.
Pastor Stephen Patten
From the Mountain is a 'cyber sanctuary' where sermons and other musings are posted for the general consumption of a larger community. Feel free to reflect on them as you wish. You are welcome to leave comments below with thoughts, insights, and/or questions.