Saturday, August 21, 2010

God & A/C

We are truly blessed to live where we do. It comes with its challenges to be sure, but the sweet upsides cover a multitude of 'sins'. One of these is the fact that we live five minutes from Kwun Yam Wan beach.
It was on my journey there today that I had a really cool thought. The short cut to the beach takes us through the grounds of one of the numerous temples on our little island. I grew up in the bible belt, but we had nothing on this place where there are temples littered on every path and byway with hundreds of little shrines to boot. As I walked past the open doors I thought I heard the hum of an a/c unit busily chilling the interior of the building. The first thought that struck me was that these gods may need a/c, but my God does not. After this the next thought was about all the nicely air conditioned churches all around the world where Christians gather in comfort to meet their God. This actually caused me to laugh, because our God truly does not need a/c, but we do. The only reason we cool the building is for our comfort, yet for some reason we still think that we come to the building to meet with God. It got me thinking about how messed our thinking is regarding Sunday mornings, and how much detox we need to go through.
Now I don't think that anyone really thinks that we set the climate control to please God, but our view of the sacredness of these places that we meet in definitely hint at a subliminal doctrine that I believe is undermining our true foundations. The importance of the building and the Sunday morning program has in many ways taken the place of the importance of the people who are gathering in the building. I guess that my first thought when the a/c breaks down would not be about how many people in the building can't even afford a/c in their own homes, it would be a thought about my personal discomfort, and how it will distract me from the experience that I came to enjoy. I know this to be true, because it actually happened once.
God was with me when I climbed out of bed on Sunday morning. He was there with me in the shower. He heard all my conversations with my family. He saw the look on my face as I missed yet another green light. He knew my thoughts. None of this changed when I walked through the doors of my local church. The one thing that did change was that there were a whole bunch of other people who were (and are) known by God there at the same time. Why is it then that in my mind, whether consciously or subliminally, I felt that something changed? I may have even said something as silly as,"Wow, the Spirit is thick in here today!". Huh? Did I think He was contained in this little building? Did I? Do you? Not any more.
This is why people who come to a new church may feel ignored. The other people who are there came to meet God, not them. Meeting these folks is meant for the foyer if we have time, not during the service when they may distract me from my 'experience'. I have got to be kidding me! I say it that way because I discover this thinking in myself all the time. I see it at the school where I work when they have a morning worship service with the students and I kindly bow out because it is all in Cantonese. Our head staff member, who was a student once himself, will unfailingly invite me to join, and try to get someone to translate for me. He doesn't do it for any other reason than that he knows that the fellowship is what it is truly all about. I tend to forget that with my oh so western, churchified mindset. I need to detox so badly.
Church is not about comfort. At least not the kind that comes easily. It is about the comfort we receive as we give it out. It is the comfort of the nearness of God who draws near in the fellowship between broken people. Sure you may get a warm fuzzy when you shut everyone else out and go "into the worship zone", but that pales in comparison to the filling that happens when you embrace someone in need, or a stranger, or actually find someone who isn't afraid of really hearing how you are doing, because they have prioritized their Sunday lunch date in a Spirit led fashion. Think about it. Has any of those things happened to you? How long did it take for the glow of that to wear off? It may have been emotionally, and physically draining, but there is nothing like it. Maybe the reason that restaurant servers say that the church crowd is the worst part of their day is that we come out of church feeling smugly superior from our "personal encounter" with God. Think about it again; Jesus went off by Himself to spend that intimate time with the Father. The rest of His life was about engaging people, and it was exhausting not refreshing. So what am I doing? Why am I going to church to be refreshed? Why am I not refreshed when I walk in after being alone with the Father like Jesus, and ready to engage?
I have a long way to go.

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