The Church: Embarrassingly Normal People

Today is . . . hang on. Tuesday! That’s it. Tuesday, July 4, 2017. Independence Day in the U.S. Day 21,663.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” ~ Thomas Jefferson et al.

The word of the day is unalienable, an adjective, meaning, “not transferable to another or not capable of being taken away or denied; inalienable.” You can see an example of its usage in the quote, above.

Besides being Independence Day, today is also Sidewalk Egg Frying Day. It’s only going to hit 94 here, today, so that might not work. But it is July, and normally quite hot in this area. We’ve had a somewhat mild summer, so far.

We didn’t do a whole lot, yesterday, which was the plan. Nor do we plan to do much today, but who knows? That could change at any minute. We did try a fairly new service for grocery delivery, as a sort of experiment. There’s this service called Instacart, and they will do your shopping for you and deliver your groceries from a local store of your choice (as long as it is a store that they partner with). We decided to give it a try. The ordering process was not easy, and we had to switch stores in mid-order, because, when we got to cat food and treats, the Kroger site listed hardly anything. I believe this is not Instacart’s fault, but Kroger’s. Not sure about that, though. So we changed everything over to Tom Thumb. Expense-wise, it was significantly more than our normal grocery bill, even taking into consideration that we ordered enough to keep from having to go to the store this coming weekend. The other issue (again, not Instacart’s fault) was the substitutions. I would say that at least half or our items had to be substituted because the store did not have them. In once case, they didn’t even carry the item. So why was it even included in the choices?? However, the shopper communicated all of this quite well, via text messaging. I was given the option to approve every substitution, and even, in one case, allowed to request a refund for the item, as there was no suitable substitution. The delivery was made right on time, with the frozen and perishable items packed in insulated totes. It’s kind of like Uber for groceries. It wasn’t a bad experience, but we don’t think we’ll do it again.

The concert last night went well. However, we experienced some serious aggravation upon arriving at the event. It turns out that Southlake Town Center, no doubt because of restaurant complaints from previous years, had completely blocked the entire parking lot that was closest to the gazebo, saving it for “dinner reservations.” When we arrived, it was less than half full, and when we left, it was less than half full. All of the band people had to walk much further than we had in previous years. To complicate matters even more, the shuttle that runs from a local, nearby church, that always dropped people off a couple blocks from the event, this year, dropped them off at least a mile away, based on the testimony of two other band members who normally use the shuttle to avoid parking issues. There are several of us who probably will not participate in this concert again, due to these issues. It’s too hot, and we’re too old to have to be dealing with this kind of stuff.

The concert, itself, though, was good. I think we played well. They made us stop, though, before we played Stars and Stripes Forever, though, which was unfortunate. We had time, too. They just cut us off a few minutes early. It really makes me think that the city doesn’t appreciate the band’s contribution to the event, even though, between the Swing Band that played at 6:00, and the Community Band, we provided all of the entertainment for the event.

The Red Sox are in Texas, playing the Rangers, over the holiday. This always makes for some good fun in our house. Last night, after the Rangers managed to tie the game in the ninth, the Sox came back and won in the top of the eleventh. Boston, on a five game win streak, is three games ahead of the Yankees, in first place!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! 
Psalm 105:4
Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts! 
Psalm 125:4
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
Psalm 119:164
As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; 
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

Psalm 103:15-16
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 
but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 
So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 
And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 
He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 
But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 
Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Matthew 13:24-30
Lord, have mercy;
Christ, have mercy;
Lord, have mercy.

(From Practice Resurrection)

We can pretty much choose any congregation to take a “long, loving look” at the people who make up the Church. At first, it won’t be obvious, but if we keep looking, we will realize that we are, in fact, looking at the “Holy Spirit-created community that forms Christ in this place.” It’s not a spiritualized thing, either. I mean, sure, we are all “precious souls for whom Christ died.” But it takes a while to visualize the metaphors that Paul used, of the people as the body of Christ. But these metaphors keep us “connected to all the operations of the Trinity that we can’t see.”

When we take this look, and persist in what we see, we give witness to the fact that the church is “in the only terms in which the Holy Spirit forms it–on this earth, this ground, this local San Diego, Wichita, Chicago ground, with these local and named saints and sinners.”

So what do we see? “Not a Tirzah illusion, not a ‘terrible as an army with banners’ illusion, not the lie of a humanly managed popular provider of religious goods and services, but a congregation of embarrassingly normal people in and through whom God chooses to be present to the world.”

To be sure, this is not what outsiders see. In fact, it’s not even what some insiders see. But this is what it is. “God does not work apart from sinful and flawed (forgiven, to be sure) men and women who are mostly without credentials.”

When we try to use romanticized and consumerist representations of the Church, these get in the way of what church actually is. “The church we want becomes the enemy of the church we have.” Read that one again.

“The church we want becomes the enemy of the church we have.”

It is significant to note that the Bible gives us no “successful” churches.

But the Bible gives us Ephesians, and as “we immerse ourselves in Ephesians,” we can see how the “Holy Spirit forms church out of just such lives as ours.”

Father, form church in us! May your Holy Spirit keep forming church with us, in us, and through us! Help us to see “church” with uncluttered eyes and imaginations. Help us to dispense with these errant visions of romanticized and commercialized “church” and see it for what it truly is, a conglomeration of “embarrassingly normal people” who somehow manage to glorify you and do your work on earth. May your kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

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