I’m thinking this morning of a church declining, not one here where I currently live, but long ago, in another state. A place many years ago, where I went to help a friend serve pie. Yes, pie and dealing with pie on that day became a symptom and symbolism of the beginning/ongoing decline of a church building to me, because there were so many unwritten rules and expectations about pie at their chicken barbecue. Pie. The chicken cooking probably had far fewer hang-ups than the pie.
I came into the kitchen with my pies (I used to bake so many, had quite the excitement about my pies from work folks) but my pies and their quality are NOT important here, it was about attitudes in an established church – and here I came as a stranger. I stepped in with my smile, my willingness to help, to step into a kitchen of people that I did not know, it was about my fearless method to cut the pies, and probably my generous portions. I shook the kitchen establishment of pie ladies, and their rules, just by being me. God forbid that day if I crossed the social lines out to the men cooking the chicken, invading their turf, LOL. I remember there were some grateful women in the kitchen as I was a breath of fresh air to chat with and did not get stressed over pie. And I really don’t remember any flack, I was told there might be, but I don’t remember any to my face, I don’t even thing there was any behind the scenes, I remember only nice people, gratitude that I came to help them that day. I really only remember standing cutting pies, the mission of pie.
Pharisees were shook up by Jesus stirring up the church of His earthly times. Jesus shook up the people by being so smart and teacher-like but He had come from humble beginnings, how could this be? The rulers were shook up. And others were interested in Jesus not even knowing what the rulers were saying. Jesus stepped outside the box. Jesus even talked to women, crossed the lines of social norms, and oh wow, He touched unclean people. Jesus came for a mission. People were shocked when the One person that scripture had told them was coming had actually come. Learned, established folk could not shake or share their establishments to comprehend what was happening. “You can read the weather, but can you not read the signs of the times.?”
I’ll put it in plain ole English: “When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?”
All of Luke 12 gives volumes of wisdom. How earth-shattering it was that CHANGE had to be understood by the people. Even though Jesus performed miracles, people doubted. Even though Jesus rose from the dead, people doubted. We are a human race of humans. Stuck in our method of pie. Obviously the pie story is just a small incident, not deep scripture teaching, but it is a common tale of people being people. I even will say that no flack came my way that pie cutting day, but the PERCEPTION was that I was going to upset the kitchen, tip the carts, be too bold just by bee-ing me. People sometimes can not wrap their heads around changing things that others, who are now long gone, cared about. Imagine if I had brought a cake to the pie kitchen! Oh dear. Would I have been tossed out? No. Of course not. They were wonderful people. But the breath of fresh air to some ladies was such a great thing that day. Can you feel their sighs of relief? I only visited that church a couple times. Is this church thriving today? 30 years later? No. I don’t think it’s any different than many churches fading in their reach to others. Less people means less workers and less outreach. Imagine if that church or any church could become a place again that thrived. Where pie did not even have to be a fundraiser, but where FREE PIE was given out instead. Where slices were generous and marvelous but better than fluff – where the food was fulfilling and good. Imagine a place where resources like daycares and counseling services were open and easily available. IMAGINE THE FREE SHARING OF JESUS. Imagine a place where the lost could be found. The workers are few and the harvest is many. Don’t be afraid to change the way of the pie, don’t be afraid to make new plans in the devotion to make new disciples. Be like Jesus and cross boundary lines to meet the people where they are. Be open to change, especially since the Change has come to the world, born a child of a virgin, suffered died buried and rose again. Don’t doubt that the dead can rise again. Don’t doubt that faith is not fuel-able. Don’t be afraid to seek feeding in order to feed. Just look to the times and learn how to read the Spirit that still exists, never changing, ever present.
Change the pie and change the feeling of the moment. Change the moment and bring it back to mission. The mission is to share Jesus.
Bring Jesus into every situation. Choose to serve Jesus and change the world. Harvest the crops, but first help plant, help nurture seeds that are sprouting, and tend to young plants maturing. And bring it out of the kitchen, out into the world.
One more scripture, from Paul to the Corinthians, about building up churches, people, and fanning into the flames of faith: “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
Paul continues, reminding the church folks: “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.“
Pie, it’s not about the pie. It’s not about earthly things. It’s about Jesus. Pie won’t last, people won’t even remember the barbecue, the flames will burn the things that are not going to last. But Jesus lasts… JESUS IS GOD, AND GOD WANTS US TO SHARE.