Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hallelujah

Our church is getting a playground.  And, let me tell you folks, that’s a lot harder than it sounds.

We’re one of those typical small town, 100-year old, small churches that’s getting older in so many ways.  Then we got a new preacher—a young one--and things started blossoming.  We went from one elementary school kid to a vibrant youth group with kids from elementary age through college.  One Sunday I counted that we had more people under 18 in the Sanctuary than we had over 18. Folks, that’s just incredible. We’re on a roll here.  So the idea of a playground sounded like the natural next step.

When we first came up with the idea the main obstacle, as always, was money.  You can usually get some blood out of turnips if you try really hard and are willing to live with just a few drops of blood.  But we managed to get the money we needed. A couple of saints were more than generous and we ended up with enough turnip juice to buy the top of the line play set from Lowes. 

Then we had to get permission to put it on the church property and it turned out that raising the money was the easy part. 

Getting permission was not so easy.  People who let their own kids run around in the winter without a coat, who encourage them to play football, ride horses, and shoot guns did not want to risk having a playground on the church property. And, what’s more, they were horrified at the idea that the neighborhood kids might come over and use our playground. Because one of those kids could get hurt and their family might sue the church over it.

These were intelligent and experienced people who wanted to warn of the risks involved. We listened with earnest appreciation to their words of caution.  They told all sorts of stories of churches getting sued for 20 million dollars’ worth of Jesus’ money. And they didn’t want to take that risk. They were very protective of Jesus’ money.

But that’s the point, isn’t it?  It’s not our money.  The money belongs to Jesus.  Would Jesus want us to  take a risk and let children to run around flinging their God-given bodies to and fro with abandon? Or would Jesus prefer them to stay safe inside the building, sit in a pew and listen to a sermon, never moving a muscle?

I think it's safe to say that Jesus understood risk.  You can't get any more risky than giving your life.

ALL ministry brings risk. Christianity is just a real messy and risky business— if we’re doing it correctly. I’m always a little leery of groups who operate too efficiently.  In any group of people you will have, you should have, a variety of ways to look at things. 

When a church goes through the process of making a decision, you have to listen to everyone with respect and in love.  Then, ultimately you have to listen to Christ.  You will have to listen hard because sometimes Jesus speaks very softly.  You might even need to go off somewhere really quiet and spend a lot of time listening.

In my book it’s very important for a church to have a playground—it’s important enough to risk.   Because playgrounds are where the Hallelujahs go to hide during Lent.  We want to keep our Hallelujahs happy and healthy even when we’re not using them.  A lot of churches with OCD folks in charge will eliminate songs with Hallelujah in them during the introspective Lenten season.  It’s a good thing Lent doesn’t last much more than a month or so because everyone needs a good Hallelujah once in a while. Actually, we need to shout Hallelujah as often as possible, once a day would be nice.  We are Resurrection people, after all.  But to get to the Hallelujahs we must pass through Lent.


Where do the Hallelujahs go to hide during Lent?
When they are silenced in the Sanctuaries?
And banished from the songs?
When they are politely told,
“It’s nothing personal,
You are just not appropriate during this somber time
We need to be quiet and reflect on our sins for a while
Please come back Easter morning.
Yes, Easter is your day.  Come then.”

So, what do they do during Lent?

I think they hide in the playgrounds
Where they whisper to the children,
Periodically burping into a giggle here and there
Because they just can’t help themselves,
Quietly biding their time in the midst of play.

The children don’t understand 
but welcome their friends nonetheless.
“Stay here with us,” they say
We will hide you.  Come.  
Play with us as long as you want.”

Then on Easter morning the Hallelujahs 
Step out of the shadows of the playground 
Striding back into the Sanctuary with bold steps.
Ripping down the black drapes from the rough cross,
Bringing the lights up, cueing the trumpets,
Pulling out the stops on the organ,
Welcomed back with open arms,

Winking at the children for their secret,
With promises to sing at their weddings.

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