While on maternity leave, I had the opportunity to visit some other churches on Sunday mornings. One Sunday, at another United Methodist Church, I was walking towards the sanctuary with Joy, who was 4 weeks old at the time. A woman looked at us and made that “awww…” face that lots of people make at babies and then said, “you better hurry and get her in the nursery, they are getting ready to start their fun songs.” I responded, “oh, she’s not going to the nursery, I am taking her to worship with me.” This was met with an “oh…” that had a tone of disdain, and as I walked away I heard the woman say to her friends, “uh, another one of those.”
I was a bit shocked. I assume that the woman’s disapproval was because she doesn’t like the people who take their infants (and perhaps other children??) into the worship service. Perhaps she finds them disruptive. I noticed that there were lots of other parents with young children in the worship service. As I went into service, my shock and disapproval continued to grow. How could someone be so inhospitable? Is that how visitors, or worse yet, non-Christians encounter the church? Are our children only welcome to worship the God who created them if they can keep their mouths shut in the pews?
We all need a good dose of Paul’s instructions on how to be the church. In Romans 12:9-21, he is trying to teach us how to be the church, how to live as the body of Jesus Christ in this world. As I look through what he says, many of the individual directives seem fairly attainable, at least in short segments of time. When I read the verses together, however, and consider the whole passage, I’m a bit overwhelmed with the gap between who I am and who God calls me to be. Be patient in affliction, really? I wonder how our church is doing in being faithful to these directions–all of us together as a community. Are we ever conceited? Isn’t it good enough just to be nice??
The truth is… to be the church is to be the physical presence of Jesus in our world, and that’s a pretty tall order. And for me, this whole “being like Jesus” thing really does make me RETHINK CHURCH.
Molly is the Campus Pastor of Resurrection’s West Campus in Olathe and can be reached at Molly.Simpson@rezwest.org.