Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Hospital for Sinners NOT a Hotel for Saints

Maybe it's all the rain that we've been getting in Georgia this week, or persistently gloomy news about the economy, my pastor's most recent sermons, the book that I have been reading "Celebrate Recovery" or a combination of all of these things; but lately I've been thinking about rehab, recovery and refreshing. Almost as important as the three academic r's. No, I haven't been listening to Amy Winehouse on repeat or watching Tim Geithner grapple (mostly unsuccessfully) with the state of the economy. I've been thinking about rehab, recovery and refreshment because right now, we, as a nation, need it and are in a position to receive it. But forsaking the 3 r's for a little bit, let's talk about the 5 W's. Who? What? Where? When? Why? Most of these are quite obvious but I want to focus attention on just one vehicle for arriving on dry land in a sea of troubles, THE CHURCH.

I've watched Good Morning America almost every morning this week. Mostly because I need a break from the intensity of CNN and GMA makes for more lighthearted reflection while I am getting dressed. They've been talking a bit about the economy, a lot about the floods that are expected to ravage parts of the country and how to survive both. In addition, they have talked about how random people are having "come to Jesus" moments (connecting again with a higher sense of spirituality and purpose) as a result of the present economic condition. Because I am not one to question a person's sincerity of religious beliefs or how they arrived at them, I say, good for them. In actuality, as my pastor has preached, the church (metaphorically and physically) was always intended by God to be place for people to experience the three r's, not a place for pious people who need their weekly fill of religion. Thusly, the 5 w's of the 3 r's is said, most simply, "The church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints." Get it?

Ok. Well, In the time of the Civil Rights movement, the church was a haven for radical change. Protesters and community organizers held meetings there. Many church pastors were on the front lines of the marches. Most importantly, the church was a home to folks who had nothing and were poor in spirit. The church was IN the community and OF the community. People were hurting, the church was there. They were the soup kitchen and the clothing drive, long before we lavished praise on the Non-Profit Organization. They served drug addicts, pimps, prostitutes. The people that we label "sinners." The "Come One, Come all" mentality was truly at work. Not because it was the most glamorous thing to do, but because these were the people in desperate need of the 3 r's. Much of this spirit is still alive in the streets of DC. I've seen it when I've had the good fortune of volunteering in women's shelters and church soup kitchens." Churches there recognize that there is a call on the Christian life beyond Sunday service and daily finger pointing because"church folk" as many so mockingly call them, are sinners too. Why? Because we are human.

So. How dare we turn the church into a spiritual hotels where we stay cooped up looking down at the people who need the care of the E.R like they are blemishes on perfect religion. Shame on us. So, what good is church in the 21st century, if communities are not changed. If people are constantly reeling from pain? It's a big job, yes. The good news is that there are plenty hospitals. In fact, there is practically 1 on every corner, and if you live in the south, 2:-). Some even on Main Street as Obama would say. We were all admitted at some point. We go from in patient to doctor, no real skill needed. Just an open heart to receive. Treating those who need it. That's the cycle. That's where the church belongs. At the corner of crisis and healing.

The only reason that I don't panic when the world is falling down around me is because times of destruction are followed by times of rehab, recovery and refreshing. After rain, comes sunshine. To quote the great Mufasa from the Lion King, "We are all apart of the great circle of life." I don't think that we need a bailout. Just the assurance that we'll get through. We'll make it. We always do.

There's a verse from one of my favorite albums, that captures the thought:

"If I say I love Jesus, but they can't see my Jesus, my words are empty of they cant see Jesus in me. No more excuses, I give myself away.... because I may be...the only Jesus they see."

So, for all who are willing, the doors are open. The line is usually not too long and I know the guy who runs the place, he's pretty awesome.:-)

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