Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Concrete Cathedral

First, allow me a huzzah because the cat has recovered from this unpronounceable disease that no cat in Winnsboro has ever lived through. We had taken up his food bowl and planned a life without him that would certainly include lots of carefree travel. However, Sarah upon hearing of his grave prognosis commanded all to pray mightily. With all the drama only a ten year old is capable of, we had solemn prayer with hands held together under chins and eyes closed within bowed heads. When the vet called three days later to say Murphy could come home, Sarah’s first words were an awestruck whisper of “It worked!”

Who is to say anything about prayer? I’ve prayed in similar deep ways over good humans with every reason to live and they still died. It’s not a science, for sure. Maybe the prayers of a child go farther than a hardened adult’s.

At any rate, Murphy is back, chasing mice through the house and monitoring the creek waters for frogs and other excitements. Thank you, God.

For today’s topic I’d like to tell you about my Sunday worship. Last week our church hosted the youth for a week’s worth of mission in lieu of driving across the country. Just like if they had gone to Appalachia or Mexico, they slept on the floor of Fellowship Hall and went out every morning to a whole variety of places but this time, right here in Dallas instead of distant spots. I got to go to two of these mini-missions: The Collin County homeless shelter and, on Sunday morning we went to my favorite—Church Under the Bridge in Waco.

Church Under the Bridge is held a couple of hours from Dallas, under the two overpasses, North and South, of Interstate 35, near the Baylor University campus.

If you are providing the breakfast meal you will have either woken up super-early to cook or done it all the night before and cleverly stored the meal overnight in an ice chest. I’m always amazed at how hot an ice chest can keep food for eight hours or more. You can line a five-gallon water cooler with the biggest turkey-roasting bag available and pour in hot beans or soup the night before and it will still give off steam when you open it in the morning.

When you get there around 10:30 on Sunday morning there are people waiting. The people at Mission Waco have already set up a table with lemonade and water. Another two or three tables sit waiting for breakfast. It’s usually something like Sloppy Joes on a bun or breakfast burritos wrapped in foil. Then you’ve got a bag of chips, maybe an apple or a dessert. if it’s a big day there will be sandwiches to take for later in the day. We’re providing all the food these folks will have to eat for the entire day so we try to be generous. There’s a stage waiting with microphones and huge speakers. Because of the traffic overhead this is a noisy spot to worship God and the speakers have to be powerful. There’s a trailer with a couple of porta-potties and a faded and beat up yellow trailer with inside Sunday School classrooms for babies and children. The whole operation is portable and within half an hour of the last song the whole enterprise has driven off and emptied the area. Until then, we worship God sitting in old folding chairs resting on the gravel floored traffic island under a freeway. Church Under the Bridge. I like to call it a concrete cathedral. It’s that easy yet majestic in it’s own way.

Both times I’ve been to CUB I worried that there wouldn’t be enough food but somehow it all works out. Then around 11 they start the music. The band plays a bunch of classic songs and everybody sings along. They have announcements that consist of the weather report (very important information for someone who sleeps outside at night), Happy Birthday to a few folks, congratulations for an anniversary of sobriety, and sometimes a social event. They take up a collection to pay expenses. Jimmy Dorrell, the pastor, delivers a well-thought out sermon. More rousing music and everyone leaves with a song and the love of Jesus in their heart.

This is a church just like mine. But they don’t have to worry about the air-conditioner or the electricity going off. They worship God outdoors under a bridge.

Pastor Jimmy Dorrell has written a book about his church called, “Trolls and Truth; 14 Realities About Today’s Church That We Don’t Want to See.” The Missionpalooza kids studied this book before their visit to the church in Waco. Early in the book, he quotes Jackie Pullinger who has a similar ministry in Hong Kong, “If you want to attract the rich, serve the poor.” It took me a while to realize he’s not necessarily talking about people who are rich in funds as much as rich in relation to God.

I left the bridge last week with the notion of how simple this is and how easy it would be for anyone to do it. All a church has to do is put out a sign that says “Free Food” then sit back and see what happens. Or just start worshipping outside. What holds us back from welcoming the homeless? Is it fear of success? Everything Jesus said and did pointed to this type of ministry and still we’re afraid to try it. Our biggest fear is what will we do if we try it and it works.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i wish our church were not so afraid, we have a wonderful kitchen and could provide so much. We are such a food oriented church. thats my kind of sunday school - df