Scripture: Matt 23: 27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Observation: Sometimes we the people of the Church are guilty of putting on a good show on the outside, but failing to be true to God’s commands on the inside.
Application: One of the main problems with the Church today is that many of us think we have it all figured out. We are quick to point out the flaws of others, but reluctant to change ourselves for the better even when we know what we need to do. This is evident all the way through the institution of the Church, and down to us as individuals as well. We have a good vision and goal, but often fail when it comes to the hands on of doing the things we need to in order to see it accomplished.
In my own denomination we hear the words “Open hearts, Open minds, Open doors” but are we living up to that motto? It’s a great P.R. slogan, and has a good message of what I believe the Church should be, but how do we stack up when it comes down to where the rubber meets the road.
A few years ago I met a fellow who I’m sure God sent my way in order to teach me a lesson. It was the middle of the day and I was on the back porch of the parsonage reading when I heard a motorcycle pull into the parking lot of the Church and the engine shut off. People often parked in the Church lot during off hours and it wasn’t an unusual thing by any means, but I walked around the house to get a peek anyway. I saw a Harley Davidson motorcycle parked right in front of the Church entrance, no rider to be seen. The Church was always open, which I had always thought was a good thing, and because of that I felt that we were living up to our motto. The door was indeed open, and the rider was inside the Church alone.
I didn’t think to myself “Hmm, there is someone who might want me to pray with them,” or “perhaps I can help this person who’s inside the Church.” I wish that had been my first thoughts, but mine were much less noble, much less “open.” I started trying to figure out what there was inside of the Church that the person might be after. What might they be trying to take that they could carry on a motorcycle, I wondered. As I got closer to the door, I wondered if I was maybe putting myself in unnecessary physical danger by going inside to confront whoever it was. I thought maybe I should call the police and have them come by.
I didn’t call the police, and decided to go on in and rely on God to protect me. As I walked in the door, I saw a man with long grey hair, ragged motorcycle style clothes (leather vest, leather boots etc.) standing in front of the communion table where the Bible was open, his head was bowed and he was praying silently. I didn’t interrupt him, and in just a few moments he turned around and walked up to me. We introduced ourselves and talked for a good long while. I invited him to come back to the back porch with me and sit a while. He had apparently made our Church a regular stop whenever he rode by. He had discovered that our doors were open and would go in, say a prayer and then leave. I don’t know how many times he had performed this ritual unbeknownst to me. I told him that he was always welcome to stop and pray whenever he wanted, and I invited him to our services.
He actually showed up at a Bible study one evening and although I felt that the other Church members were receptive to him, I think he still felt out of place, and he didn’t continue coming to the study. After that, every now and then, usually during the middle of the day, I would hear the motorcycle pull up and stop, and I would go look and it would be in the same place right by the entrance of the Church. A few times I made my way over in time to speak to him, but usually he would be gone in just a few mins and I wouldn’t get out of my door before I heard him pulling away.
All the Churches I’ve served so far have been rural Churches, out in the country, in small communities, and many of them are able to leave their doors open like this because there is not much of anything that someone would want to steal inside, other than furnishings and a piano or orgran. I know that not all Churches can leave their doors open like that, but I think it would be good if all Churches that can’t open the doors, would at least make an altar available to the public for just such travelers as this Harley Davidson man.
Here is the lesson I learned. My heart and my mind were not open to this fellow when I first saw him at the Church, but the doors were. And because the doors were opened, God made it possible for my heart and mind to be opened to him as well. I know that for the most part, we the people of the Church Universal are sincere in our desire to be the people that God is calling us to be. I know we want to reach out, we want to serve God – but we can never forget that we are only serving God when we are serving the least of His children.
Prayer: Dear Father,
Please help me to truly open my heart, my mind, and my doors to those who you send my way who are in need. Help me to the best of my ability to serve you by serving others. Help me to be a comfort to those who are in need, and a strength to those whose faith is weak. Let us as the whole Church endeavor to improve the walk of our talk, and help us to love one another as you have loved us.
Yield: I give up my whitewash.