So I had poured my heart into writing this talk, asking God with passion and tears to just make it His and to make it HAPPEN, meaning to make it real: God, make us one in Jesus as he is one with you so we can reach others and tell them about you and they can live in you, also!
So the time for preaching finally comes this Sunday. We'd just gotten done sharing what God has been teaching us the past seven days. I pull out the notes for the message, look up, and Deb raises her hand.
She asks a question about doing something in the park for Easter. A lot has been done in the past, but that has changed, and she is concerned. Others echo her question, and a conversation begins. So Deb's question leads to other questions, and they lead to a group discussion. The church, together, live-on-Sunday decides as a family to do something we've never done on Easter Sunday: we are going to Westchester Park to make, share and eat pancakes with our community.
I will try to write down the line by line conversation at some point, but let me just say: God brought us together to this purpose. It was totally His leading. It was his doing.
Now after a bit, once we arrived at this idea - wild! - Anthony saw me getting my notes out because it had gotten quiet again. I wasn't going to preach the message but I was going to read a scripture, and so Anthony raised his hand and said, "Aren't we supposed to be totally about taking Jesus to the people?"
I said yes. Heads were nodding. We were all together.
"Then," he said, "We've got to plan this thing out right now."
So we had a discussion while our church family was gathered on Sunday. Think of that? And I'm going to take a risk and type this next thought....being the discussion facilitator, I kept asking questions, listening, encouraging people to speak. And not everyone was excited about what was happening. One wonderful brother in Christ looked bored to tears. Another was looking like, "Arrrggh, I got out of bed for this?" But in the end, we had this amazing discussion about whether an Easter Sunday pancake breakfast for our community should be in the church building or in the community itself.
There's a core question the Holy Spirit was raising, right then: Are we called to bring people to us? Or are we called to go to the people? As cliche as it may sound to you, this hits at the heart of a big question: What is Easter about?
And in fact, one individual - a man I respect who would NOT describe himself as a follower of Jesus - asked that question. He said, "Look, I'm just listening to you all...just tracking what you're saying. You need to answer this question: what is Easter about?" There was silence after he asked it, and then someone said "eggs" [groan], which was, at least, an honest comment in the moment. And then you could just sense this collective awareness of Jesus' and the cross and the empty tomb. You could see it on people's faces.
So what do we do? Religious service? Send out fliers? Go to the park? Bring people to us? What?
Right then, a five year old boy raised his hand. He was sitting in the front row. No, his feet could not touch the floor - I could see the bottom of his sneakers. And he looked me right in the eyes, and this is what he said:
"You know, I'm a kid. And my mom says that kids have one and they only have ONE job: our job is to play! So if I'm at the park and I'm a kid, I'm going to play! Then I'm going to eat pancakes! Then I'm going to play! And we can all be there with all the kids!" And when he said that last line, he had his hands out, palms-up, his eyes wide open with excitement; and, yeah, I was connecting with that big-time.
Typed on our humble church family blog, this may not seem like ground-breaking news: but this five year old stated what I think God wanted us to hear that day. And all together, we preached an awesome message - a family sermon.
Great lines from the family sermon:
People are God's house, not a building.
Aren't we supposed to be totally about taking Jesus to the people?
If we wait till after service to plan this, then it won't get planned because everyone will leave because most of us just came for a "service".
Easter is all about Christ conquering death.
Everyone loves pancakes!
Let's go to people and show them the love of Jesus.
There were other great lines, but that was the heart of it.
And now reconsider John 17:20,21.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
So we were unified in Christ but instead of unifying around a preacher preaching, this week we unified around a mission. And make no mistake, we decided on a single meal...on a single day...for a single community. No one was acting like pancakes are the answer for the world's problems. But if we are serious about asking the question, "What would the Kingdom of God look like if it came to our community this Easter?" I think we just may be seeing hints of it.
People in love with God, who gives them every single breath, and wants them to know his love;
People intentionally loving one another, led by Jesus' truth, message, and freedom-giving power;
People, out of love for God and for one another, uniting around their misson: to take this good news to a hurting world, and to make disciples. Can we step closer by sharing and eating pancakes at the park?
God, thanks for doing this. Can't wait to see what you do next.