The title of this blog, “The Burning Bush,” is a direct reference to Moses’ call by God in the wilderness. Moses, we are told, came to Mount Horeb and there “the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.” (Exodus 3:2)
The title is also a take on our congregation’s name, Laurel Presbyterian Church. The mountain laurel is a bush and the church is called to be led by the Holy Spirit – who is associated with tongues of fire at Pentecost in Acts 2. So the people of Laurel, led by the Spirit, would be the “burning bush.”
The Spirit has led Laurel for many years, and leads us even now. Where the Spirit leads we seek to follow. One of the directions the Spirit may be leading Laurel is to be welcoming to all in our community. One of the ways we can be welcoming is by making our building open and hospitable to those who have been here before. To that end, the session (governing board) has been looking at ways to make our building and grounds more hospitable.
We are looking at doing some capital improvements to our building, including some overdue capital maintenance and possibly adding a parking lot in front of the sanctuary. We have received a proposal from a outside business to lease some of our land for the purpose of erecting a cell phone tower. More information about these projects can be found here (click and scroll down to “Announcements”).
All the buildings and capital, however, will not matter if the church – the people of God – are not welcoming themselves. So as we consider how God may be using our building to provide hospitality to strangers, let us also consider how God may be using us to provide hospitality as well. Who are we being called to welcome into our building, our homes, our workplaces, our schools, our community? How can we welcome them so they feel a part, and are not longer “them” but “us”?
The Way of Christ implies that there is a better way of being and doing . And the church in its actions shows that better way. Whether is Philemon freeing a slave who eventually becomes a bishop or a congregation becoming racially diverse in a segregated society, the church is charged with showing the world there is a different and better way.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The church shows it every day, every week. It’s been said many times before me that 11 o’clock on Sunday is the most segregated hour during the week. But we show every week in our worship it doesn’t have to be this way, when people from east and west and north and south, people with light skin and dark skin and every hue in between worship together.
Over the past four decades it has gotten progressively harder to make ends meet for more and more people. But we show every time we gather for fellowship it doesn’t have to be this way. When we say, “Bring what you can, and eat what you need,” we show the world a different way.”
It is becoming clearer to more and more people that our society and culture is becoming more and more fragmented. People are becoming more and more isolated, even as we claimm more and more “friends.” But we show in how we love and care for one another and even for those who visit us that it doesn’t have to be this way.
In Greek society, no one who was a slave became anyone of any importance. Yet in the church, Onesimus became the bishop of Ephesus.
Christ shows us a better way, a way of truth and grace, a way of fellowship and love, a way of life and freedom.
I’ll be watching the World Cup come Saturday, and hoping the U.S. can go far. But as we watch the games and root for our teams there will be others who will be nowhere near the stadiums. Cities in South Africa are removing their homeless populations to other, remote parts of the country ahead of the 300,000 tourists expected for the tournament. The South African motto seems to be: If you don’t meet the vision we want others to have of our country, then we will make you invisible.
Our collective will as a society seems to be to ignore the poor and to make the homeless invisible. On an obvious level this is about image, about presenting the best image possible to outsiders and making them feel comfortable or even at home. But deeper down the mass relocation of the homeless is a product of guilt. If we were proud of how we treated all human beings we would not feel the need to relocate them. Instead our guilt drives us to shut them away were we cannot see them.
What if we opened our eyes to the invisible of the world? What if we recognized the poor, the homeless, the hungry? What would we do then? What would the World Cup or the Olympics look like, and how would those who attended those events respond?
“And there was evening, and there was morning: day one.” – Genesis 1:5
So today was my first day in the office at Laurel. Mostly the day was about unpacking boxes. While there are still some boxes left, there are a lot fewer boxes in my office! At lunchtime my wife and daughter came over and we went out, and then it was back for more unpacking.
The first day on the job is always about unpacking. God spent the first “day” unpacking light from the darkness. Now, did God do this in a twenty-four hour time period and should we take the Genesis account of creation literally? I would argue no, that Genesis 1 is clearly poetry about how and why we came into being. But the idea that God took time to form light out of the darkness, that God continues to bring light into darkness, is an important one for us to hold onto.
My house is still full of boxes and there are times when I seriously wonder if they will ever be unpacked. And in those times of depression about the task ahead of me and grief of what I have lost I am surrounded by darkness. Yet God brings something or someone into my life to bring new light and new life. My daughter comes and gives me a hug. My wife puts her hand on my shoulder and tells me life will be okay. My dog nudges me to go for a walk and looks at me with those big brown eyes that communicate that I will always be loved. This is the light of Christ shining in the darkness, just as the light pierced the darkness on day one. And for that, I give thanks.
Welcome to the weblog of Laurel Presbyterian Church in Glen Allen, VA. I’m Andy Meyers, the pastor of the Laurel Community. I’m new to the church, as well as this blog. So let’s go on a journey together. You can get in on the ground floor – start following us now!