I was a little concerned the other night as the people started arriving at our house. We had agreed to host a friend of mine for a casual, open house gathering and it was clear that not all who were coming had RSVP’d. The deck in our backyard was getting crowded, and we were concerned for the parking along our narrow street. As it turned out, there was no need to worry. The visitors stopped coming at only five over what I had anticipated and everybody was careful about the parking, although, unexplainably, nobody parked in front of our house, only in front of the neighbors –why was that? I suspect everyone was trying to be courteous and let others take the close parking spots.
Our guest was Wayne Jacobsen, a friend of mine that I’d met a number of years ago at a gathering of house church folks at a campground in Indiana called Potato Creek — must have been 1995 or ’96. I appreciate Wayne because of his message that we are loved by “Father” (Wayne is fond of referring to the first person of the trinity sans definite article). He’s not a ‘form’ guy. He doesn’t believe that the form of the church — house church, institutional church — is relevant to vibrant faith, but the relationships that emerge when we live in the love that Father has for us.
This is the message that is so rarely heard, and more rarely understood. That the creator of the universe could actually like us seems so counter to everything we’ve been taught: We’re defective. We’re stubborn and unlovable. We’re dirty and repugnant. Our effort to be really good is so pitiful; obviously there can be nothing in us that a holy God could love. Or so we believe, if not explicitly, at least in the world-weary way we live our faith. How refreshing to be reminded that when God declared his love for the world (think John 3:16, here) that the world was pretty much a mess. Jesus didn’t come and wait around for us to get our collective act together; or wait for us to at least try really, really hard, before he could bring Himself to love us. He came to us in our screwed up condition and loved us — Father gave His Son.
So, let’s live in that affection. That’s a super-summarized idea of what Wayne talked about at the open house and on Sunday morning at ‘Mac’, the church I pastor. A highlight of that teaching, for me, was a summary of the gospel that he got, ironically, from an atheist he had met. The guy said, “I believe that Jesus taught that we have a Father who loves us more than we know and if we could sort that out, we’d know how to treat each other.”
I guess that pretty well sums it up.
“Learning and Growing.”