Milton is, quite simply, one of the finest writers in blogdom. Make a point of reading the complete post from which I quote below. Milton is a musician, song writer, writer of prose and a chef. He is married to a pastor. And has a theological degree, himself.
When the artisans set the glass in the windows at Notre Dame, they knew they were building a house of worship. The building took so long to complete that the ones who started the construction were not the ones who completed the cathedral; it took almost two centuries. Whether working on the intricacies of the Rose windows, or stacking the stones for the walls, I can’t imagine any of them found it easy to grasp an image of what they were building together other than some abstract idea of a church. Once finished, it has continued to be a work in progress, requiring restoration and rebuilding due to the damage done by the wear and tear of the following centuries. Though the edifice stands as one of the most recognizable building in Paris, its art is not so much different than my nightly offerings: neither is ever completed.
We share one other thing in common (at least I hope we do): for all our effort to create something beautiful, the art itself is not the point. A restaurant is not a bad metaphor for church because the idea is to incarnate two of Jesus’ invitations: “Come and see,” and “Take and eat.” We spend a lot of energy in church making sure things are “right,” which is not all wrong, yet we have to check ourselves to make sure we have not lost sight of our calling to make a place for everyone – particularly for those who live at the margins of life.
The McChurch approach to building the Kingdom wants to set goals that are 12 months, 2 years and maybe even 5 years out. We attend conferences to tell us how to grow our churches quickly. It’s all about excellence and results-oriented leadership – getting to the “next level,” of course. The latest gurus selling us the latest techniques that may, or may not, have worked for them. We want Our Best Lives Now™ (without pork, apparently) and can even get a Bible that will help us in that quest. But this is not the Kingdom.
Imbi reminds me often, of the faithful people the writer of Hebrews speaks of in Chapter 11. A chapter that ends with these words in the poetic paraphrase of Eugene Peterson,
Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.
Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.