BY CLINT LOVEALL - SPIRIT LAKE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
I like museums. I enjoy history, and browsing the past is interesting to me. However, often the stuff that intrigues me most isn’t the stuff that everyone else wants to see. The fancy, jeweled, expensive relics don’t do much for me to be honest. I like the ordinary stuff. I like seeing the stuff people used to navigate life, the stuff they used to hunt, and fish, and farm, and treat illnesses, etc. Those are the things that interest me the most because they seem the most real.
Sometimes, I think churches can be like museums. For many people, church is the place we go to display the good stuff. We show up and act like everything is fine, as if we have no struggles, doubts, addictions, fears. We say, "God is good, and I have been blessed," which is certainly true, but often used to hide other things that are true as well.
I have never really been interested in that way of being church. I prefer the real stuff. Yeah, it's messy, but at least it is honest. I want church to be the place you can show up when things aren't fine and you aren't feeling blessed. What I want to see on display are real people living real lives of faith and fighting real battles. The polished shiny version that looks good but isn't true doesn’t do much good in my opinion. Give me messy but genuine.
Someone once said the church is a hospital for sinners, not a shrine for saints. Sometimes I think we have forgotten how true that is and let church become a place we all pretend we aren’t deeply broken and needy. It's a tempting narrative, but it isn’t true and it isn't the Gospel. We go to church exactly because we don't have it figured out, and we know that without God's help we are doomed to a life of selfish chaos, no matter how good it looks from behind the glass.
Church has to be the place where the answer to "how are you?" can be a real answer instead of an automatic "fine." Church has to be the place where it is OK not to be OK. Church has to be a place with enough room for brokenness or else it can't really be the church. Go to the museum if you want to see polished and shiny perfection, come to church if you need help navigating life. Among the sins Jesus came to free us from is using his name to pretend we have it all figured out. We all know it isn't true, so why keep doing it?
This weekend, when you go to church, whatever church it is, remind yourself that you are visiting a hospital not a museum, and more importantly that you are one of the patients! At church, you will encounter real people with real pain and real struggles. Be honest about that, and don't try to pretend you aren't one of them too. The more honest we are about who is in church, the better able we are to figure out how to be the church.