Sacred Agents #109

Unclogging the Arteries

Picture yourself there. Jesus is teaching, and it’s absolutely gripping. His words are gentle, yet powerful. Loving, yet challenging to the absolute core. And the people are hanging on every word.

The main room has filled up, people standing against the walls or sitting on the floor. Jesus himself has shuffled back into a corner. Then the crowd overflowed into other rooms, and finally the corridors and entranceways are jammed with burly folks all leaning forward, catching what they can of this teaching. Jammed like clogged arteries. There’s something wrong with this picture.

Baptist Insurance Services will tell you that there’s risk involved with climbing on roofs. You want to do that carefully. Make a big hole in the roof and we’re now talking serious hazard. And you want to go about heavy lifting in the right manner too – but lifting a disabled person up onto a roof and then down through the hole? When is that ever sensible? You might be thinking ‘Ah yes, but it is OK, because they’re getting him to Jesus, right? And they want it so bad that Jesus rewards their faith.’

But it gets me thinking about all those people clogging up the entrance and the corridor. So fixed on facing inwards they were oblivious to who was just outside. So protective of their own position that they wouldn’t make a way for others. ‘Shhhh! And stop tapping my shoulder! I’m listening to Jesus.’ But were they really? I think the four faithful friends might have been listening better.

So where are you in the story? And not just as an individual. Might the whole picture tell us something of what it means to be church? Do we make it easy for people to get to Jesus? Or do they need to fight their way in? Do newcomers find friendly faces willing to show them the Way, or are they presented with a bunch of backs turned?

To our great loss (not to mention, ahem, others), we’ve largely exempted our church gatherings from our thinking about mission. Sundays are our time, right? Not for them. Mission is about going out, right? Not bringing in. It’s almost axiomatic. Almost biblical.

Isn’t it what Jesus said, though? I mean, I’m in the corridor and he’s in the next room but I’m pretty sure he said something like, ‘When you’re having a feast, don’t invite the poor, the crippled, the blind or the lame. Just be sure to take some scraps out to them.’

Andrew Turner is the Director of Crossover for ABM and author of Fruitful Church and Taking the Plunge

Photo by Chad Kirchoff on Unsplash

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