Last year, I read a book that has really stuck with me. It was called, Jim and Casper Go to Church. In it, Jim Henderson (no relation) describes hiring an Atheist (Casper) to travel with him to churches and then give honest unfiltered feedback about the experience. I love the book. I love the two guys featured in the book. They both seem like authentic people. They seem curious to learn from each other. They are not mean spirited, but kindly honest.
During the debrief from the church services, Casper almost always got to a point when he asked, “Did Jesus tell ya’ll to do that?” Since he had had less church expereince, he was often baffled by things people did in church. After attending a “healing” service in a church Casper asked, “If that guy can heal people, why do they need handicapped ramps?” An outsider looks inside and wonders what did Jesus want from his people most of all? That is a worthwhile conversation.
Lat week and Kings Day (Dia del Reyes) ,I was petting Humperdinck, the friendliest camel I have ever met. He was looking over toward the steeple of the church and I thought it was a fun picture. It got me thinking. When Jesus laid in the manger, could anyone have foreseen church buildings made of red brick with white spires reaching toward the sky? It’s funny, that the style of our church buildings follows the Greek temples of Athens from the time of Jesus. The church flows though that area and picks up the architecture of pillars and pediments and then flows though Rome and the Renaissance and then on to England and finally to America and Georgian architecture.
If the camel’s actually got to see Jesus, they would have seen none of that. They, however, would have seen what is most lasting and real about Jesus and therefore the Jesus community. They would have seen love. That, more than buildings, is supposed to be what characterizes us. They would have seen prayer—in a world where women died frequently in childbirth, a mom that survived was reason to celebrate. They would have seen awe and wonder as the strangest assortment of people find their way to the feet of the baby. They would have seen courage for the world did not receive him gladly.
May the world see us not as people under a steeple, but a group devoted in love to each other, calling on a gracious and generous God, including everyone in the circle of our care. May we have the boldness to step out of an ordinary life and to the extraordinary life of Jesus. I pray that is what Humperdinck could see.