Meditation: Be the Church–Rivers of Living Water
About a decade ago, The big trend in church work
was to talk about entrepreneurial church.
There were books entitled “Sacred Cows make Gourmet Burgers”
And “Selling Swimsuits in the Arctic” that argued for this perspective.
Entrepreneurial, the thinking went,
meant putting some skin in the game in order to innovate,
to get out in front of trends.
It meant a way of being church that took risks to obtain big rewards.
Sure: some people thought those rewards meant full pews.
Others thought it meant more churches, or bigger buildings,
or more handsome, dynamic preachers. (Boy were they duped, am I right?)
It meant some return to a dream heyday in the past.
That was one way to look at it.
But, for others, it meant a willingness
To adopt what Jesus said: those who give up their life for my sake will find it.
It meant an understanding that many churches were stuck, mainly stuck in fear,
rather than excitement for the sake of the Gospel: God’s Good News
So it was a decision to adopt a way of thinking that would maybe break that mold.
To be discontent with the status quo
To be comfortable with experimentation
A bias for action, for trying new things.
Now, Like any trend in the church,
what you got out of that depended a lot on what you put into it:
if you were trying things out because you wanted to adapt
business techniques to spiritual things:
well: you ended up with a church
that felt more like a car dealership than a family of faith—
shiny, everything polished
everything a bit thin
an attractive veneer
but when you drove off the lot
you felt like you didn’t quite know
what you just bought.
I always sigh, pretty deeply, at those kind of church experiences.
But on the other hand,
if you were seeking to be faithful
And wanted to risk yourself boldly because you love Jesus
And you love God
And you found that following God on the way of Jesus taught you certain things
Things like: God loves me just the way God made me
And there is nothing on heaven or earth
That can tell me I’m not worth that love
Or things like: There is nothing more beautiful, or true,
Or pleasing, or commendable
Or worshipful than loving your neighbor
Then maybe taking some bold risks for the sake of THAT
Is worth it.
Ok Jesus, lets Go.
Jesus take the wheel, and all that.
I’ve not seen much about Entrepreneurial Church talk lately.
I like the idea in concept,
But I suspect it got too wrapped up in its business origins to really help
motivate people to try new things, to give up their sacred cows or their fears.
But the beautiful thing about the idea is that it helped us talk a bit more about
The dynamism of the Holy Spirit: that presence of God that is
Always telling us that we don’t have to fear
That what God provides is more than enough
That there is always opportunity to be the church, right there,
if you just get up and go risk your life for it.
The idea for Be the Church Sunday started out from THAT sort
of Entrepreneurial thinking
The very best kind: if the Spirit moves in you,
and it seems fitting to the Mission of God, try it.
Second Presbyterian Church in Kansas City brought this forward
as a new way to WORSHIP the God we love:
WORSHIPby getting outside of the standard ways we worship GOD
and infusing it with service.
They tried it first in 2014,
So this is Second Church’s fourth Be the Church Sunday.
This year, they’ve invited others to join them:
Village Presbyterian in Prairie Village and in Stanley,
Grandview Park in Kansas City Kansas
Heritage in Olathe
Covenant in Kansas City Missouri
And us, The Kirk of Kansas City
A day of service to give ourselves to Kansas City and to the World.
Each church has a different plan:
Do something natural for your community and its mission
But keep it focused on service.
We’ve decided to focus on two things:
Center Elementary School and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
Our Center Elementary project will be a thank you project:
Letters of gratitude to teachers
Some reflection on those teachers who have inspired us
and an expression of support for their work.
For some of us, we’ll not just write but we’ll create some art
Do some drawing, get outside of our comfort zone a bit
If you’re more cerebral, like me
But we’ll package all that up and deliver it in November
Part of our Thanksgiving for their efforts
At strengthening the kids in their care
and their families.
The other focus is on Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
Assembling Cleanup Buckets and Hygiene Kits.
We’ve invited our immediate community to support us with this
And so we’ll need a small group of people willing to go out in cars
To pick up any supplies that neighbors have left for us on their porches
And the rest of those working on this project
Will be sorting the donations and getting them in order for assembly.
That’s the rough idea.
We have no idea how this is going to go.
Will we have a thousand sponges and scrub brushes,
but no dust masks or dish soap?
Will people be bored, or excited,
moved, or annoyed
See the presence of God in our striving,
Or just go through the motions and head off to brunch?
That’s part of the risk of this sort of thing: the new always has with it
But I’m struck by the way that the Gospel pushes us to try things like this.
Its not just the beauty of Matthew,
Who reminds us that whenever we get to serve,
it’s a chance to serve Jesus himself:
I was hungry, and you gave me food,
I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me
Truly…Just as you did it to one of the least of these…
You did it to me.
Or take the feeding of the five thousand
That story, you might remember
Of Jesus on a remote hillside, teaching about the Kingdom of God
With an audience so captivated by the possibilities of God’s world
That they stayed there way too late
And the sun started to go down, and they were in danger
Of not getting to the city
before the fast food joints closed down
and the disciples went to Jesus and said
Hey Rabbi, send them back so they can get some food
They must be hungry and its getting late
And Jesus said to them: you feed them.
Take your two fish and five loaves and give it to them
And they did, and it was more than enough.
Everyone ate. Everyone was filled.
Twelve baskets left over.
Or this story, from John,
Where Jesus is standing before his people on the last day of a great festival
Let the one who believes in me drink…
Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.
Living water is the Bible’s way of talking about
God’s grace and love and compassion and justice.
It is what Jesus promised the woman at the well.
It is what flows through the city of God in the vision of Revelation.
It is what animates the waters of baptism and
Grows the community of faith we call the church.
Living Water means life in abundance. It means all things being washed clean.
It means the very good gifts of God.
I don’t know about you, but I want to have living water flow through me
And I want it to flow from me.
We’re going to try a day of service today, along with our fellow Presbyterians
Seeking to make a difference for those recovering from hurricanes
And teaching and caring for the children of our community.
That’s a RISK for the sake of the Gospel.
What a wonderful risk it is, indeed.
So my prayer is that as we strive to Be the Church
through our love and through our mission, we may enliven our community
and be the people of God the best we are able.
May it be so. Amen.
Image: Kirk members putting together PDA Disaster Relief Clean Up Buckets on October 22, 2017.