The Ugly Church

The Ugly Church

 Today I saw and heard the church reaching out for God in a way that has been missing in our congregation for a while, and the sermon inspired this little train of thought that is now heading your way.

We recently had new landscaping done around the church, and, I have to say, it looks dang good. A comment was made about what an impression it made, and while it was genuine, it made me think.

Lately, I have been preaching from my worship pulpit that an attitude of humility and brokenness spurs a lifestyle of action through the power of the Holy Spirit. Tonight, we were reminded that the automatic product of our faith and hope in Christ is the undeniable action of God in our lives. It seems there is a theme going.

What I’ve been praying over the church is this: May we as a church be laying ourselves down so much, giving so much, pouring out all that we have, that we will NEED the pure work of God in our community. May we be so empty that all we can do is depend on Him to fill us.

And so, the more I thought about the comment, the more it made me think. Sure, it looks great, but shouldn’t I, the one who has been preaching all of this, be wanting an Ugly Church? 

The Ugly Church, in fact, is exactly what I want.

I told my church family that, more than anything, when I returned home from school on break, I would be hoping for an Ugly Church.

Not hoping in the way most people do today, as if it were a wish, but putting my faith in the words of Christ and His promises: that He works through the empty handed and in power through the faithful.

I hope to come home to a church with well-worn carpet, stained with the hesitant steps of burdened people. I hope for grass that is a little less green and a little more played-in. I hope for dirty little fingerprints on our glass, and crumbs all over the kitchen. I hope for altars with knee marks permanently pressed into them. 

Because The Ugly Church is a church that’s being used, a church that is living and breathing, a church that is pushing on to the finish line, a church that embraces the hard questions, and shares both in triumphs and hardships. I hope for a church that’s not getting dressed for it’s own funeral.

I’m sure when we decided to spend money on a tiny bit of landscaping, it wasn’t for selfish reasons: in fact, it was probably with the thought that it would draw others in. But, I guess it needs to be said, and I’m the one to say it: let’s invest in our future! It’s time to start reaching out in faith, laying out all of our resources, whether or not we think it’s worth it.

After all, it’s not ours, is it?

What use is money being hoarded in an account to God?

What use is that money to the hungry, single-parent families in our community?

Knowing the importance of being good stewards of our money is one thing, not using it out of fear or lack of faith is another.

Why are we afraid of giving to families who need it because we aren’t sure of what we’ll get in return? Since when is that the goal?

If our church isn’t being used, what’s the point?

I stand in hope that the faith I see in my church family will grow stronger everyday, until there is no other result but action.

James 2:14-17
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to him, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  (ESV)

Why “Inside Out” Makes You Feel

images*If you haven’t seen the movie, beware. I am talking main themes and plot points!*

On Friday, I, along with 15 young girls in leotards, marched over to the Theatre a few buildings down from my work to watch the new Disney/Pixar movie all about feelings. While I cannot say I haven’t cried during an animated film before, because I actually do that quite regularly, I surprised myself with not only tears, but a tightened chest and a throat choked full of vivid memories.

It might have been because the girl sitting next to me, sniffling and gasping as the movie progressed, had just told me her best friend had moved away, and making friends at school had been difficult.

It might have been because I related so strongly to the pressure of parents needing their daughter’s support, and the fear that came with losing everything and having to start over.

It might have been because this movie has an incredibly insightful message that really applies to me right now: Sometimes “Sadness” is needed in order to move on, in order to grow. Sometimes “Happiness” can’t fix the problem. Sometimes, everything needs to blow up completely so something new can grow.

For a kid’s move, it had some very important adult messages that society has disposed of. Happy does not equate to whole. Escaping life’s issues and burying it in things that make you happy does not make a satisfying life.

Why have we become so obsessed with living pain free, glitch free lives?Humans are resilient. It’s our nature. We need to have sadness and trials: it’s only through those things that true joy and “completeness” are drawn in.

We need to be broken in order to become better.

We need to be empty to be filled.

I know I went straight for the “deep end” on this post, but I wanted it to be a short one. Just food for thought! I’m sure this theme will be resurfacing in other posts.

Have a great night!

What’s in a name?

As a logophile, it became obvious when I started the blog that the most difficult part of the process would be choosing a fitting, delicious name for my site. Not only were there an incredible amount of ideas in my head, there was also the task of picking something that wasn’t taken, something original. I could’ve made the decision much easier by using my name, but I knew that every time I logged in it would remind me of logging in to my student profile and checking on my grades or financial aid. Obviously this was not the sort of feeling I wanted to have when signing in to my personal word-place, so I quickly discarded that idea.

I have a friend who associates a word with certain times in her life– sometimes she picks them before the time has even come to pass, other times she picks the word when it’s all said and done (for example, one of her more recent words was “Victory”). I’ve always admired this skill she has, even to the point of jealousy (though not a negative sort). Somehow, this friend is able to look back, evaluate a series of events, and come to a conclusion; her ability to genuinely inspect herself and have that sort of closure is something that appeals to me. I’m not very good at looking backwards, and I seem to have the habit of pressing forward no matter the circumstances, leaving many memories and people behind that, if not in my journal, will most likely be forgotten. I tend to lump memories in big piles labeled “good” and “bad” and leave it at that, without considering why it was all important, or what it means. This has worked very well for me in many ways, but I think it has led me to oversimplify my life and the choices I have made. Nevertheless, I did my best to apply this technique in choosing my name.

To Kalymma, as you may have noticed, is not English. This year, among many other things, I studied Hebrew, specifically in translating the scriptures and learning about the documented consistency in the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic contributions. To Kalymma is Greek for “The Veil”, which was located in Ancient Israel’s temple, separating the “Holy of Holies” from all of humanity. There was nothing special about the veil. It had no magical properties or special significance other than to protect people (except priests) from coming in direct contact with the power and glory of God. It was only by a devoted and pure life that a priest was able to enter the Holy of Holies without immediately dying: the pure, holy presence of the Lord cannot abide in any sin. In the New Testament, when Jesus died on the cross, paying for all of humanity’s sin, the veil in the temple was torn. God no longer needed to protect His people, for Jesus Christ’s perfect blood protected them and cancelled out their sins, allowing not just the Israelites, but the Gentiles who believed as well to finally have unity with God. God the Father could now dwell among His people without killing them. I know this is a bit of a long explanation, but bear with me a little longer. Alongside this, I took a course called Western Thought and Culture, in which I studied art, music, anthropology, and the culmination of many other things. That’s the difficulty with courses of culture, it’s very difficult to “summarize” when it includes everything. During the course, I finally learned a phrase that identified a problem I had been bumping into for as long as I can remember: the “Sacred/ Secular Divide.” You see, as the modern church evolved, it continued to divide itself from the rest of the world for the sake of being set apart, many times justified by the example of the early church in the New Testament. However, as I studied, I began to realize that while the modern church walked away from the secular world, drew a line, and began throwing things over to the other side, the early church was completely integrated into their “secular” society.

WARNING, SILLY ANALOGY COMING UP

The early church was like a bath bomb that people sometimes put in their tubs. They were deep in the culture, letting their ideas out among the people, adding to the culture, continuing to spread and change… and bubble!

The modern church is more like… a rubber duck. We say we want to relate, sometimes we bob under the surface, but for obvious reasons, we are eventually ejected and float on the surface once more.

Now comes the “title” part. Another phrase I learned in Western Thought and Culture was “thinning the veil.” Here’s the deal: God never wanted the veil. He never wanted to be separated from His creation, it was free will and sin that led to that. And God doesn’t want people who have already met Him to be separated from the rest of His people. Just like the early church, Christians should be “thinning the veil”–actively giving to culture instead of trying to bury part with hasty replacements. Whether it be painting or typing away at a desk, every human is creating something, but it’s up to Christians to use that “something” to reveal the glory of God, to “thin the veil.”  We don’t necessarily need to create something and then slap a “Christian!” label on it, let the creation speak for itself.

To Kalymma, The Veil, is my “word.” I want to end the Sacred and Secular Divide and instead pursue beauty and live life the way God created me to.

Part 1:

2 Corinthians 3:14-16, 18

Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it ‘the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.’ The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of ‘Artist.’