Monday, August 19, 2013

The Church of One? or ONE?

     Ah, the hummingbirds at my feeder.  They are a never-ending source of faith lessons.  This summer, we have had one very insistent black-chinned hummingbird who staked out the feeder in early in the season, and would not allow any other hummingbird to drink from it.  Last summer, we had a bunch of hummies coming and going but this summer, not so much.  
     This male would sit in the Russian olive tree and guard the feeder.  He would wait and wait and as soon as any other hummie came along...SWOOSH!  He would dive-bomb that bird and then fly back into the tree and resume his guard duty.  Occasionally, a female (his mate?) would come and drink, but I noticed that even females would be driven off and after a while, no other birds would be present.
     Did he drink from the feeder?  Yes, occasionally, but the vast majority of his time was spent guarding the feeder.  It's lonely at the top.  Obviously, this bird has commandeered this feeder as his own.  Despite the fact it's a "public" feeder, his behavior speaks volumes about how he views our feeder.  Oh, excuse me...HIS feeder.
     How often do we go to church and have the mentality of this wee bird?  We walk in and wonder if we will "like" the church.  In other words, what are we going to get out of it?  We notice other folks and look at their clothes/their way of talking/their friendliness (or the lack thereof) and make a judgment.  Then it's the music (too loud?  too hymmie?  too modern? too slow?)  and then here comes the pastor.  Hawaiian shirt?  Suit?  Jeans?  Cool shoes?  Flip-flops?  Then the sermon...
     You get the idea.  We are constantly monitoring our reaction and how we see the goings-on.  If any one of the aforementioned categories are lacking or are irritating, we decide that this church isn't for us.
     But, back to our hummie.  By the time we have driven away the people, the music and the pastor, it leaves just us...we become the Church of One.  Louis XIV (a very arrogant king of France) once said, "L'etat, c'est moi" ("The state is me.")  Do we have the same idea (although unlike Mr. Satin Pants, we wouldn't parade around saying so) that "L'eglise, c'est moi"--"The church is me."  It's all about how I react to what I see.  But, after much church hopping/shopping, we find it's lonely at the top.  
     Solution?  "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."  (Hebrews 10:23-25).  Why were the readers of this letter forsaking gathering together?  Perhaps they believed that Jesus would return any day now, and they thought, why bother?  Yet, the writer gives compelling reasons to meet together:  love, encouragement and hope.  
     Wow!  How are those wonderful things achievable?  By getting to know one another well enough to engage in their lives, and they in mine.  If I am flitting about from church to church, I will not get to know people well enough to really enter into fellowship with them.  "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal. 6:2).  Isn't it interesting that the only "law" we are to follow is loving one another?  Our love will be the biggest witness of all about Who Jesus is: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-5).
     So, if we want the church to not be the Church of One, but the Church of ONE, what to do?  These are some compelling hallmarks of a "good" (that is, Biblical) church:
1.  The Bible is preached in its fullness:  Verses are not cherry-picked out and the emphasis is on His Word, not story-telling, psychology or personal narrative.  We are confronted with His Word, and our hearts are convicted.  God's Word, is by definition, confrontational:  "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Heb. 4:12).   The Word is the very foundation of His Church, for it tells of the ONE Who died to make this life in Him even possible.  The Word ultimately is sufficient:
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."  
2.  Love:  Is it really offered?  Are people genuinely concerned for you?  But, equally, can you offer love and have it well received? 
     That's it.  The rest--music, Hawaiian shirts, shoes--pale in comparison to a gathering of believers who sincerely seek the Word, and walk in His love.  Our life in Him is lived in community--with Him and with each other. 
That same Russian olive tree last winter is a much better "church."  More challenging (you mean I have to get along with all of you?)  but in the end, more of what He had in mind.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, there are too many Christians looking for a church centered around them, not a church centered around Him.


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