the Second Sunday after Epiphany

Reflecting on the Journey
The church “is” to proclaim and administer god’s love!

Why church? Why this church? This congregation? Granted, if it weren’t here, I’d have to find another job. Find another way of making a living. Of making a life. But why? Why all the effort? Why all the energy? Why all the time and all the trouble? Especially when it would be so much easier, just to walk away. We wouldn’t, even, have to turn out the lights or lock the door! After all, for a year, now – almost to the day – this building has belonged to someone else. So why? Why all the blood … and all the sweat … and all the tears? Just to try and make all this work? In a town that, already, has a plethora of churches.

That’s the question that was on my mind, a couple, three weeks, ago. The sermon was written. The bulletins run off, folded, and stuffed. “Community is a gift that comes from beyond ourselves.” That was the gist of the message, that morning. And I wondered if it was all worth it. Most of us are getting on in years. Many retired. More who should be. Our kids are gone. Our grandkids. And it would be so easy to throw in the towel. Call it quits. And I don’t think most people would blame us. In fact, most, probably, are wondering why we bother, at all.

Well, on that morning, like I said, everything was ready. All the i’s dotted, all the t’s crossed. And I had some time. So, I poured another cup of coffee, turned on tv, sat back, and watched a little of the “competition.” Of course, the program began with praise music. “Loves songs to Jesus,” a friend calls it. Drums. Guitars. Keyboard. It went on for a quarter of an hour. But even before the preaching began, it was enough. Enough to remind me why we do what we do. “Come,” they sang, “Now is the time to worship!” The time to give your heart! Just as you are!” There were four more verses just like that one. Ev’ry tongue confess. Ev’ry knee bow. Choosing. Surrendering. It was all about us. Start to finish. Beginning to end. And not one word about Jesus! Not one word about the cross! Not one word about love! And it all reminded me why this – all this – is worth it!

There were other songs. But they were nothing more than variations on a theme. Love god. Love others. Change the world. You’ve seen the bumper stickers, the signs. But that’s not why we’re here! And that’s not why we don’t walk away as so many others have done. Others who had been just as committed as us. Just as committed and just as devoted … Who have loved god … loved Jesus … loved this church … every bit as us! But that’s not why we’re still here. The commitment. The devotion. The love. No, we’re here because god isn’t through with us, yet! We’re here because we still have a job to do!

And that job isn’t, simply, to be one more church. This city doesn’t need that. One more church that worships god. One more church that thumps the bible. One more church that lays down the law, that gives ‘em hell. There’s enough of those around, already. And one more won’t make any difference, whatsoever. But what this city needs is a church just like this one. A quiet church. A gentle church. A church that speaks good news! That speaks gospel just like Jesus! How does the prophet put it? Good news to the poor! Release to the captives! Recovery of sight to the blind! And that doesn’t happen, all that often. Especially here in this part of the country!

The church – the popular church here in the U.S. – in spite of what it says, isn’t all that interested in changing the world. It’s more interested in maintaining the status quo. And doing that in the name of god. But that’s not what we’re about. We aren’t about loving god. We’re not here to love others. Not foremost. Not first. We are here to be loved! We are here to be loved by god! Loved by god with all god’s heart! Loved by god with all god’s being! And that – that’s what changes the world! That’s what makes all things new! But, then, the popular church never goes there. It’s all too dangerous, too threatening. It’s just safer to stay with morals and ethics and principles.

God loves us! God loves all of us! We’re not here – not still here – because of our commitment, because of our devotion. We’re here because of god’s commitment and god’s devotion! But we don’t hear much about that. We hear about coming to church on Sunday morning. We hear about giving our heart to Jesus. Reading our bibles. Saying our prayers. We just never get around to hearing about how god feels – really feels – about us! How god feels way down deep.

Religion – especially the old-time kind here in the bible belt – is all about choices. Choices and decisions. Consequences and responsibilities. And that’s just not why we’re here. Why we’re still here. That’s not why god isn’t finished with us. It’s god who created us; we didn’t create ourselves. It’s god who saved us, who saves us. It’s god who makes us new. Who gives us life. Not just once or twice, but again and again, over and over, time after time after time. And god does it all because god loves us! God just can’t turn and walk away. God just can’t let us go. But, unfortunately, most of the churches around us have other, more important things to talk about. Other, more important things to do.

But that’s why the church is here. Why this church – this congregation – is still here. To proclaim and administer Jesus! To proclaim and administer the cross! To proclaim and administer love! That’s why the time and trouble, the effort and energy. My friends, god loves us! God loves all of us! And we’re here – still here – to remind the world of that good news! To remind the world of that great news!