FROM THE WELL - July 10, 2014

Somewhere in my files there is a cartoon picturing a lone religious pilgrim with a staff, hooded cowl, a long beard, and a haggard look. He's standing at a fork in the road. There is a sign with one pointing arrow towards, "The Meaning of Life." Another arrow points in the opposite direction to "Cheese and Crackers." Which way should he go? Should he take the road that will help him answer the question that great thinkers have tried to solve or should he travel towards the "Cheese and Crackers?"

If I were going to choose, it would be the cheese and crackers. Why? Well, if I believe in the incarnation--God in Christ and Christ in me--then I will head straight to the cheese and crackers where others are gathered to eat, talk, sing, and dance. I personally believe that it may be more important to be Christ's representative in the world, to be a Christ presence, than to know the meaning of life. Maybe being a Christ presence IS the meaning of life!

If we believe Jesus is the Son of God (The Incarnation), then meaning is found in the life, love, hope, peace, and grace that Jesus brought into the world and shared with everyday people. While Jesus spent time in the synagogues and other religious places, He more importantly mirrored God in His words and actions. He touched and spoke to lepers, went home to eat with tax collectors, attended weddings, and funerals. He spoke to 5,000 (not including women and children which probably means it was more like 15,000 or 20,000) and then fed everyone supper. Everywhere you look in the Gospel story, Jesus is being a God presence in people's lives. Jesus was a cheese and crackers kind of guy.

In Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw's book, The Externally Focused Quest, they use the metaphor of choosing an aisle seat or a window seat on an airplane. Frequent flyers, unlike occasional flyers, always choose the aisle seat so they can exit the plane quickly. Frequent flyers have their own way of doing things and know the ins and outs of airports. They even have their own language which is unfamiliar to occasional flyers.

The same is true for aisle seat churches. In aisle seat churches, members have their own language. They use words that don't compute with the unchurched or dechurched. They use words like narthex, chancel, and naïve to describe their worship space. They talk about fellowship, sanctification, and righteousness. Aisle seat churches also have their own way of doing things that are sometimes hard for guests to understand. They have a way seeing and interpreting the word that makes perfect sense to them and those within the circle. Anyone coming in from the outside immediately feels left out unless they learn to speak the language and follow the code. Rusaw and Swanson say,

Aisle seat churches are almost exclusively preoccupied with what is happening inside the four walls of the church; window-seat churches, by contrast, have a focus that is external to the church, and their vision extends far beyond the four walls. If you want to be the best church in the community, choose the aisle seat (in first class if you can), but if you want to be the best church FOR THE COMMUNITY, slide over the window seat. (Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw, The Externally Focused Quest, p. 28.)

Sliding over to the window seat means making a choice about being the Body of Christ outside the four walls of the church. The point being that we are called to be Christ to more than just our church friends. We are the Body of Christ in a world desperate for something other than consumerism, pleasure for pleasure's sake, injustice, war, racism, and self-centeredness. Being the Body of Christ is not about what we want but rather about what the world needs. People need to know that we care about them in their situation whatever that might be. People need to know that they are accepted and loved.

I'm grateful that I can serve a church like Clemmons United Methodist where there are more people sitting by the windows than on the aisle. Thank you for being Christ's representative in this community and the world. Imagine what could happen if we all slipped over to the window seat? Think About it.