Last week, a traveling Russian preacher rolled into our service 45 minutes late, walked the aisle, took his place next to me and addressed us all. This guy (who may have been crazy as a bedbug) was certainly bold, unembarrassed, outrageous, but I never felt that what he did was rude or disrespectful.
I do, however, think his ‘literature’ is. He handed out packets of papers to most of us on his way out. Papers that were scattered and random, as if he stumbled across the cut-paste function on a computer and compiled verses with no purpose, no thought to organization or continuity, incoherent ramblings that ended with phone numbers and first names. Who are they? Who knows?
I’m not going to call, obviously, but that doesn’t change the fact that his visit sure feels like a holy disruption.
Every other week, for the last few years, we had locked our doors once the service started. Once, we neglected to do that, and we were exposed.
This isn’t going to become a discussion on physically locking doors – that is, perhaps, for another time. But we plan these services, we consider order and topic and ideas and how best to remove the barriers we’ve all built between ourselves and God. We lock the doors to try to eliminate anything that might distract (and feeling unsafe sure might). But when we lock doors, there is a cost. What else are we keeping out?
In our lives, we often plan away any hint of the unknown. I suppose it’s human nature. How many times have we stayed in toxic relationships because, though it may be painful, at least we know what it is? That, somehow, the familiar is preferable to the risk of the exotic and strange. So, we choose to walk a clear, wide path, avoiding the rough, unkempt wilderness. Where does faith fit into that wide path? In our desire for comfort (or at least the uncomfortable routine) and safety, what do we lose?
The unknown carries with it a (very real) threat of danger, choosing to lock the door can ease our worry.
Are we called to lives free of danger? If we could eliminate all hazard, would we? Is that/Should that be our highest aim?
Whether in our lives, our country, or our church, there is a cost to building walls, locking doors to keep others (people, experiences, emotions) out.
When was the last time we tried something new? When was the last time we failed?
In September of 1998, I met a woman who had, months earlier, emerged from a long relationship. She had made the very rational decision to steer clear of another, but as we spent more and more time together, it became as obvious to her as it has always been to me that I was awesome. And she was faced with the same choice we all are, every day. To lock the door, or not? She didn’t want another broken heart, but what if this story had a different ending? It might not, most romantic relationships end, and end badly (as a character in Cocktail says, “everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn’t end.”) Anyway, 3 years later, we got married.
I met with a friend last week, and he told me a story. He moved to a new part of the country, found a church he began to fall in love with, and some of the men invited him to their weekly pick-up basketball game. He has always been an athlete, but hadn’t played basketball for years and years, was now over 40 years old, maybe he shouldn’t play, he hadn’t shot a ball in forever, embarrassment loomed large, and injury was a real possibility. To lock the door, or not? He played, and tore his calf muscle – couldn’t walk for weeks.
I’d love to make a great, big, profound point, but I can’t. Maybe we lock the doors. And maybe we don’t. 2 of my favorite verses in the Bible are Proverbs 26:4-5,
“4 – Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are.
5 – Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.”
That’s right, they’re the exact opposite! Consecutive verses, one saying to “Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools,” the other saying, “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools.” Sometimes, things get pretty complicated, right? Right.
I guess the big, profound point is:
Locking the doors keeps out traveling Russian preachers,
BUT locking the doors keeps out traveling Russian preachers.