Nowhere To Hide

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“…and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
–Genesis 3:8

Kick the can?  Never played it.

Freeze Tag?  I’m way too slow.

But Hide and Seek?  I’m a master of it.  Been perfecting my craft since I was a little kid.

It hasn’t mattered where I’ve lived or what age I’ve been, I’ve always had a certain knack for finding the perfect place to hide:  Inside the church.

When I was young and the kids at school were mean, I could escape my troubles at the church.  As a teen, when the world seemed too big and scary, I’d hide out at the church.  When I became an adult and society threatened with its dangers and decisions and dissonances, I’d drown out all the noise — you guessed it — at church.

Funny, it’s a lifelong game I never realized I was playing, until a certain pandemic hit.  I went to my favorite hiding place…and the doors were locked.   The building was closed.  Nowhere to hide.

There are many wonderful, healthy reasons to be part of a church, but I don’t think hiding is one of them.  True, our very sanctuaries are synonymous with places of refuge, but this is different.  I’m talking about misusing the church as a place to socially and spiritually distance us from the world.

I’ve always valued church as a place where likeminded souls can come together and praise, fellowship, and even serve together.  I don’t think I realized how thick the walls of our churches can actually be–separating us from the rest of the world.

Although churches do function as holy spaces, set apart from daily life, they were not designed to keep us from full participation in that very world.  They are not meant to help us avoid the fray or rise above the tumult.  They do not exist to shelter its members from getting their hands dirty or avoiding the messiness of everyday life.

The church is not meant to be a hiding place.

Maybe you already knew that. I’m still learning.  My whole life has been spent nestled within the arms of one church building or another, and for all the good that has done me, I am coming to realize how I have abused that privilege.  Hiding out in the church is no different from Adam and Eve hiding out in the garden — it is refusing to respond to God’s voice, calling us into action.

Perhaps that’s something we’re discovering during this pandemic, the ways we may have used church as a crutch.  Well, no more.  We may still be stuck at home, but we’re learning that the church is no longer a fitting hiding place.  We’ve been pushed out into the world–(or at least on to Facebook).

Things may begin to look different now–more up front presence in our communities.  Worship that stretches well beyond its previous reach.  Evangelism that does not invite people to hide with us, but involves playing a whole new game:  Follow the leader.

In this sense, the Covid-19 craziness of 2020 may have revived Christianity for the 21st century.  We may be discovering that God, not some stone building, can be a refuge when times are tough.

Maybe, instead of hiding at all, we can poke our heads out of our houses and greet the world as a new and improved body of Christ!  Instead of kicking the can down the road to the next generation, the time for action is now.  Instead of freezing in place, we need to be moving in all kinds of new directions.

And if you want to see what church really looks like, start counting the ways. After all…

You’re it.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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The Center For Dis-ease Control

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Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
 who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases  –Psalm 103:2-4

According to etymology online, the word disease originated in the 14th century.  Back then it meant “to make uneasy; inflict pain”.  So, the opposite of ease.  

Nowadays we think in terms of pathogens and viruses, but lately I see signs of dis-ease everywhere I look:  Uneasy people, feeling pain.

  • Stir-crazy children just longing to socialize.
  • Stir-crazy parents, just longing to let their children socialize.
  • Lonely folks without the technology to stay in touch.
  • Outraged conspiracy theorists, latching on to dubious facts that fit their feelings of oppression.
  • Outraged rule followers, shocked to find themselves the only one wearing a mask at the grocery store.
  • Finger pointers.  Blame layers.  Meme sharers.
  • Even the folks that keep their heads down, raise their kids, grill in the backyard, and struggle to bide their time.

Everybody’s feeling uneasy.  Everybody’s feeling some pain.  And I didn’t even add all the doctors and nurses and front-line workers who risk their very lives everyday.

Not everybody gets the disease, but everybody gets the dis-ease.

Where do we turn?  From whence comes our help?  Well, if you’ve got symptoms of the virus, get to the doctor pronto.  But if your symptoms are a reeling head and a stone in your gut, get to church.

Go to Church, my friends!  When have more people been in need of some revival?  Where else is there a promise of Good News?  Who is ready to help, no questions asked?

The Church.  Maybe not every church, but most of them.

We, the Church, are in the business of curing dis-ease.  Yes!  When Jesus sent out his disciples into the streets, they were filled with the power to cure dis-ease!  When the churches in your town take to Facebook or Youtube with a word of comfort, passion, and service, they are rejecting the forces of dis-ease that inflict our world!

Now, let’s take it down a couple notches.  Because, you know, there certainly are some things our churches need to be uneasy about these days.  Racism did not disappear when Covid appeared.  Economic disparity was not washed away with the arrival of coronavirus.  The hypocrisy all-too-often present in our worshipping communities has not suddenly evaporated just because we face this outward threat.  These are symptoms of sickness that have not gone away.

And still!  Still we preach the Gospel!  The story of a man named Jesus who came to convict and to comfort all at the same time.  Right now, our world needs a balm for its dis-ease, and we are uniquely qualified to offer it.

WE ARE THE CENTER FOR DIS-EASE CONTROL!!!

  • To the stir-crazy, we offer room to grow.
  • To the lonely, we call and remind them they have been called.
  • To the conspiracy theorists, we pull back the curtain on who is REALLY in charge.
  • To the outraged, we offer deep breaths of healing prayer.
  • To the finger pointers, we model what a helping hand looks like.
  • To those biding their time, we remind them what is eternal.

If, a year ago I were to tell you that all the churches would launch a singular initiative to take to the internet, reach out to their communities, and pull together in a seldom seen show of faith, you might have laughed, especially when I told you our buildings were all empty.

It’s good to know that in this time of dis-ease, the Church isn’t suffering…

from dis-use.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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