A former pastor of mine used to say, "God loves the whole church..smells and bells and all". This phrase greatly expreses my own philosophy. My aim in my former post and this one is to see if there is a way to encourage others to love the whole church by learning to seek to discover the values that each cultural expression is attempting to communicate and blessing these intentions.
The following illustration, I think gets to the point which I am so feebly trying to communicate
I think this is from the Movie “Sounder”. I saw the movie probably 20 years ago but really it is the punch line that is the point. So I am admittedly ad-libbing the story a bit.
The scene shows a group of about seven or eight rural Black church goers returning from church. One man is playing slide guitar on a National Steel. The music sets the mood of rural Mississippi or Louisiana. One man begins to tell a story. He says:
Ya, know I missed church last week. Well, ya see my wife was baking cookies for the boss to take to church and it was running late. So she went off to church and I delivered the cookies to the boss's church. I got there and I gave the cookies to the deacon and he took them and put them in their fellowship room. Ya know, I have never been in a white man’s church, so, when the deacon got back, I asked the deacon if I could sit in the back row. Well, he said, "yes" and I sat there through the whole service. It was very different. No one said “Amen”, and they didn’t clap to the music. So right before the end of the the service, I made my way out and headed for home. Well, on the way home, I was talking to the Lord, and He talked right back to me..
He said, “Willie, you did the most amazing thing this morning..Ya know, I’ve been trying to get in that church for 50 years..”
I think that sums it up. We all think God is in our box, but, what do you know, God doesn’t live in a box at all. God is not constrained by the works of man’s hands. We erect barriers made of our customs and traditions and laws, and these barriers prevent us from seeing how the Grace of God is working in the lives of other people all around us..
A great example of this is the story of Peter and Cornelius. God's desire is to get Peter over to Cornelius’ house. Peter has to be able to see the Grace of God in the life of this gentile. Peter has to learn to get into Cornelius’ box. In order to accomplish this, Peter has to have his mind blown a bit. God has to destroy Peter’s box. God doesn’t convert Cornelius to become a Jew, but, instead, God grows Peter up a bit by teaching Peter that God is no respecter of culture and ethnicities. Peter’s mind is changed both through an ecstatic experience in prayer (he fell into a trance) and through an observable experience of the power of God over at Cornelius’ house. This short term missions trip changed Peter’s mind. He caught God’s heart for all peoples and came to see how God can work in a box other than his own.
So the choice is ours we can continue to fight from our petty small minded perspective for our cultural preferences, or we can learn to participate in the work of God in the world by entering other people’s boxes and blessing what God is doing in their world.
We worship a Missionary God, and, if we desire to enjoy His presence, we may find that we will need to find His presence by becoming incarnational in a world other than our own. Those who, like Peter, are being led by the Spirit into the world of others and who can put down their self-centeredness for just one moment, and look for God’s grace in the world around us in other boxes and other perspectives, these are the sons of God.