Many of us will go to church today and leave feeling better then we did when we entered. Our reservoirs of hope will filled, our burdens will have been laid down or lifted and our faith will have been restored. But let us be mindful as we are exiting the open doors of the church we are entering a world where hearts have been closed by the heaviness of everyday life. Where reservoirs of hope have dried to dust, burdens have multiplied exponentially… and faith? Well, faith for some is nothing more than a word from some foreign language.
After saying our prayers, singing our joy, making our tithes, dropping our offerings in the plate and hearing a good Word, we will leave feeling satisfied that we have done our part in making the world a better place. Many of us will amble on to the parking lots of our sacred spaces exchanging “God bless yous” and “Have a good weeks” with our Christian kith while retrieving our purses and valuables from the trunk of our car without a second thought or realizing the irony therein. Some of us will fling our Bible in the back window of the same car where it will live until next Sunday… err … that is the next Sunday we decide to go back to church. At times I can’t help but wonder how different the world we enter into upon leaving church would be if the wear and tear of our Bibles were due to use and not sunburn. But as usual, I digress.
I suppose for some of us attending, praying, singing, tithing, offering, listening and worshipping is all we can do. Age and/or illness has rendered us unable to convert our faith from noun to verb but for a great many of us, that isn’t the case. We can do more and, in fact, the world is demanding – every day- that we do more.
Every day – Sundays included – we exist in a world with unmet need in large part due to the unrealized potential in each one of us to do better. We seem to be stepping over, and many times on, our brothers and sisters, while clawing to be “the best” at everything when all we need to do is be “better”… better parents, better children, better siblings, better spouses, better bosses, better employees, better lovers of all humanity, better peace makers… better… today than we were yesterday.
Everything that goes on within the walls of our churches is fine but what happens when we leave that place? What happens after the open doors of the church close? What do we physically do to address the hurt in our communities? What do we physically do about the violence? The addictions? The injustices? The brokenness? Where is our sacrifice of time spent engaging with others, meeting folk where they are? For whatever reason, there are folk who aren’t comfortable in our churches. Are we willing to go where they are comfortable? Will we meet them where they are? Without disdain? Without judgement?
Stroking a check is nice and if that’s all you can do believe me it’s necessary and appreciated. Keep it up! But what if you can do more than just write a check? What if you are in good health not financially but physically? Or maybe you are blessed with both good finances and good health. When do you put your body on the line? When do you give something you don’t have an endless supply of… something like “time”?
In order to really help others we have to be willing to risk something, we have to give something up and usually that “something” is nothing more than time. We need to be willing to engage folk where they are. We must we be willing to feel the pain of others – to the point of being consumed by that same pain.
Picture, if you will, a house were on fire. All you can see are flames and smoke with the one exception of a hand waving and a voice you hear screaming, “Save me!”, from the second floor window. What good is that tattered, sunburned Bible on the ledge of your back window in that moment? Do you think you could write a check big enough to save that person? The only chance you have of saving that person’s life is to risk your own.
So after the benedictions today, when the opened doors of the churches close let us go back and save some folk. I’m not necessarily speaking in the evangelical sense of the word “save” nor am I speaking from a place of ontological righteousness. I’m not some bumptious upstart pointing a finger at any one but I am speaking to all of us … because … our “houses” are being swept up in conflagrations of mistrust, selfishness and self-absorption and until we see ourselves in one another… until your problem becomes mine and vice versa? We are merely slow dancing in burning rooms.