Can anyone relate to an attraction towards raucousness? Are you strangely drawn to seemingly disordered piles of creative projects “in process”? How about family gatherings that contain that edgy feel to them that anything could happen —and it might be a scene?
Eugene Peterson (pastor/writer) was once asked what he loved most about the church. His answer? “The mess.” –He loved the messiness and the unpredictability that comes with the community of the church.
The Christian church was the first institution in history to bring together Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slaves and free, and to hold them in equal standing. This blending of previously separated groups was socially shocking. However, Paul said that by forming this community of diverse members, and by learning to love one another, we (the church) would capture the attention of the world (Ephesians 3:9-10).
Any community where its members may have only one thing in common (faith in Jesus, or at least the desire to find that faith) is bound to have “issues.” People will say stupid, insensitive things to us; worship styles may appeal or not appeal to us; sermons may or may not “touch” us – but it is in this diverse, and sometimes unpredictable soup of different personalities that we learn about grace. And grace is never learned in a crash-course. It takes a long, long time and, just when we think we’ve grown in grace, we get a new lesson to test us.
As Philip Yancey says, Anyone can form a club; it takes grace, shared vision, and hard work to form a community. Grace grows best in messy places.
That said, here’s a modern enigma that is increasingly evident: The busier we become, the more we desire control. And the more we desire control, the less open we are to the notion that God may want to use something messy to shape and change us.
Another principal at work is that the busier we are, the shorter our attention span for these lessons that take a long time. We want our “needs” met. But (and please don’t take offense here), do we really know what we need? Could it be that God may want to forge our character in the very place we find most frustrating – that messy, chaotic place that currently may not be meeting our “felt” needs? I sometimes wonder if the very reasons people leave a church community (I just need a place where the preaching applies to my life right now; –I need to go where the worship feels authentic) may be the very reasons God wants them to stay put.
God’s humor and wisdom are both rolled up into His design for the church. It is no accident that it’s a messy place, and I personally think that the mess itself is an expression of God’s wise love for us.
So… raucousness? — Bring it! Piles of unfinished creative projects (that would be us) –Bring it! We’re gathered to become Jesus-worshippers who can only learn God’s grace by exercising it within the context of community – a long and messy road to be sure—but definitely part of God’s love story for us.