Heard a wonderful, powerful, Spirit-filled sermon this morning in the African American tradition. There were a lot of “Amens” which filled our worship space. But I wanted to share, as best I can, the story that began the sermon…a story about taking Jesus out of the church and into the world.
There was a church (as often these stories go)….
There was a church in a downtown area of some town somewhere. In in this “somewhere church” there was fire that broke out on a Sunday evening. Some trustees of this church were in the area and saw the smoke coming out through the stained glass windows. The trustees ran in to the building because they knew that there was a picture of Jesus hanging down in fellowship hall.
Now, this was a pretty traditional picture of Jesus and had been in the congregation, hanging on the same wall of the fellowship hall for 25 year. It had been painted around, straightened when it got a little crooked. Persons had eaten many a doughnut and drunk many a cup of coffee at its feet. Children had run wild. Youth had held lock ins. All with little regard to its presence in their midst.
Then the fire came.
Well, those trustees raced into the church, raced downstairs into fellowship hall, and raced on out with the picture of Jesus.
There wasn’t much else that could be saved that day. Those two trustees, some other members who got the phone call about the fire, and a lot of the people from the neighborhood gathered around and watched the church slowly burn to the ground.
They stood there and looked at the picture of Jesus in their midst. It was traditional. Jesus was a traditional lily-white, gazing up to heaven. But their was a beauty about him. Someone noted an irony of “saving Jesus from the fire.” The trustees got to share why it is that they would run in and save this one thing from the fire. Church members got to talk about some of the great, holy, life-changing events that had happened in that little church. And persons, some of whom had been in the community for years, heard about the saving power of this “saved” Jesus for the first time.
We need to be about the business of taking Jesus out onto the streets. We need to take the message out on the highways and byways…to the neighborhoods and coffee shops and bars and parks and homes and businesses and lives around us. We CANNOT keep our Jesus confined to our fellowship halls and our libraries and sanctuaries and church offices. We CANNOT keep our Jesus inside our church. We have a world out there that needs to hear about and be transformed by our Jesus.