A word of ENCOURAGEMENT to the local church
How in the world do we begin to tell the story of 2021, one of the most disorienting years any of us have ever experienced. What a strange and painful year. What a strangely beautiful year. In this word of introduction, I want focus our attention specially on a historical structure that couldn’t withstand the pressure of crisis and praise a God that brings order out of chaos.
The chaos of these last couple of years, has pushed us to relinquish: historical precedent, established process, and structure. Sadly, the necessary relinquishment of so much structural “stuff” in the pandemic has also led to the predictable relinquishment of deep connection and diluted trust. All humans long for stability. Throughout time, Societies have built structures to protect stability. Call it covid, call it chaos, there’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on. Rigid structures don’t tend to fare well when the ground starts shaking.
We all know that no structure is meant to last forever and yet when history circles back around we’re surprised by it’s arrival. Anything we carve or build out of rock, bricks, steel, or glass, be it literal or figurative, eventually falls. Travel to Greece, Rome, the site of the former World Trade Center in NYC, or, (dare I say it) down a long stretch of Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va, historical structures eventually and always buckle under the pressure of the passage of time. Most any group of people that find themselves finally tasting the “good life” naturally want to build a structure that can maintain, expand, and protect that way of life (aka stability). Think about the destructive cycles that spin chaos into the world from there.
If building, maintaining, expanding, and protecting our “good life” requires the diminishing, disqualifying or destruction of the lives of others, expect chaos and prepare to choke on the dust of fallen idols, fortresses, and structures.
There’s a moment in the Bible when the disciples of Jesus find themselves awestruck by the Temple structure,“Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what a wonderful structure!” Jesus responds, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” The temple is supposed to be the most stable place on earth, the one place where God’s finger touches the world, therefore the one place chaos can’t possibly exist.
Later in the story, those that arrested Jesus justify their actions based on the audacity of Jesus bringing chaos, the equivalent of kryptonite, into the temple. He doesn’t help his case when he predicts the temple’s destruction or in claiming he will rebuild the temple in three days. To add insult to injury, he claims the new Temple won’t be confined by geography or any other lines we might draw in the sand.
No-one-corner of the world will be able to claim this One as their own.
This One, is meant to travel.
This One is a throwback to the original design.
Anyone with institutional memory might call him “Tabernacle”, but most of his followers call him Savior.
Church, I know we’re all longing for stability, it’s natural to do so, especially in our grieving. I want you to know that I join you in deep grieving. So much more, I want you to know that we worship a God that brings order out of Chaos. YHWH didn’t fashion us out of metaphorical dust, breathe air into our lungs, and put us on our feet, only so that we might create our own version of the “good life”. Any version of life that is built upon a structure that diminishes the potential for thriving in the lives of others cannot be attributed to the goodness of God. Any version of the “good life” that leads someone into isolation, separation, or even relational annihilation is a cheap counterfeit.
God is good…all of the time. The good life Christ offers is the real deal….the Way, the Truth, and The Life. Walk in the knowledge that we follow a Savior that can take all of the fallenness, brokenness, and complexities of the stories of the past and present, all of the unintentional chaos we’ve unleashed into the world, and somehow bring profound goodness through it. Know healing comes through the brokenness.
Know that he can, and will, make ALL things for good. In the next chapter of life together, it will be critical for us to understand that it’s not our job to rebuild our temples. God already did that, three days after his son was crucified. The news gets even better. The resurrected Savior is inviting us to tabernacle with him right smack into the middle of the chaos. He’s inviting us to join the search party for those who have stumbled into, or were pushed into, lostness and loneliness. He’s inviting us to join him in the reclamation of the abandoned, to participate in the healing of the brokenhearted, and even in the resuscitation of the hearts of the presumed “righteous”.
In this very moment, I believe God is refashioning us not only out of the dust of our fallen idols, fortresses, and structures but also out of the dust being stirred up by the beautiful feet of those walking beside him.
It’s an invitation to breathe again.
It’s an invitation to life again.
It’s the invitation of a lifetime!
We make the road by walking.
Rev. Sterling W. Severns, Senior Pastor