In a classic Seinfeld episode, Jerry visits his Pakistani immigrant friend, Babu’s restaurant. Jerry walks into the empty eatery and is immediately struck by the lack of people. You can feel the tension as Babu tries his hardest to convince Jerry that his restaurant is a great place to eat and hang out. Babu’s excitement for his guest seems at once genuine and desperate.
I empathize with Babu as the pastor of a small church. When visitors come on a day when a good portion of our congregation is out, it can feel empty. It can give the appearance that something is wrong. “Here is the church and here is the steeple, open it up and….ummmm, where are all the people?” Appearances are often wrong though.
For me, Harvest is not just a place to attend on Sundays but an open family of believers who long to be known by God and each other. We have plenty of seats at the table and there is never a wait to get in.
Are you stuck in spinning the religious obedience plates? Afraid to let one drop for fear?
Many who reject or have left Christianity have criticized the, some times pervasive, culture of sin-management within our faith. Do this, don’t do that, keep the rules or you’ll die or become a democrat. I am kidding of course…about the death part ;-).
Is obedience to Christ then only about following the spirit and letter of the law? Is our faith only about being rescued out of one set of rules into another? These are questions worth answering.
Is it possible that obedience to Jesus’ commandments can be born out of love for His sacrifice for us rather than through forced compliance? Could it be that obedience is not so much about keeping every law but about becoming the kind of person who will naturally live the kingdom life? What would our lives look like if we let the life God has put in use manifest in obedient, kingdom-centered ways?
Food for thought. Which is a far better use for plates than spinning them.
I have found that the pastor’s life is a context-specific life, rather than a model or blue print. – Eugene Peterson
Just as Harvest is not your typical church, I am not a typical pastor. I don’t fit the American model of what a pastor is “supposed” to be. I am a deeply flawed follower of Jesus, wholly dedicated to the One who gave everything for me. Yet at any given point in the day, I act in ways that do not appear “pastoral” or “Christian”. I lose my temper, I curse in my car, I dwell too much in my head and run head first into the wall of self-righteousness.
Yet, in spite of all my senseless behavior, I continually find myself at the feet of God, speaking as the prodigal son, “I am not worthy to be called your son, make me as one of your servants.” And God, faithful and just, picks me up off the ground, embraces me in His overcoming love and welcomes me back into his Home.
Warning: this post may offend those with a bacon or ham prohibition.
As we wrapped up our worship team practice last night, the person in charge of our church socials asked me if anyone in our church has an issue with ham. I chuckled because for me, the resurrection makes both those heavenly foods accessible. Look, I know that for some of my brethren in the faith, the pig is still off-limits and in grace I will not force it on them. I will gladly take their portion as my own and eat it sacrificially on their behalf. As an old friend once told me, “any part of the pig…”
I am grateful for our social coordinator’s sensitivity around this subject. It showed her graceful heart towards those who have a personal prohibition. I am also grateful for the freedom to indulge in the tasty and glorious ways in which a pig can be consumed. Thank you Father for bacon, ham, ribs, carnitas, riblets, italian sausage, chorizo, Jimmy Dean anything and fried pork skins.
BTW, you are all invited to our ham lunch after church.