Monday, June 30, 2008

The View From the Pew

by Kristin McGuire

When Jesus was here, and His days were numbered, one of His most significant experiences was when Mary Magdalene anointed Him with her very expensive perfume. “The Church” was scandalized by her extravagance (and Jesus’ acceptance of it), but she did it anyway. Scoffing and indifference could not prevent Mary from creatively expressing her gratitude for what Jesus had done for her. She was forgiven much, so she loved much. This experience was so significant to Jesus that He wanted it to be told wherever the Gospel was preached.

I often wonder what I would have been doing that day at Simon’s house. Would I have been weeping with Mary or scowling with Simon and Judas? Perhaps a good gauge of how we would treat Jesus if He were here is how we treat His church, which is here.

My sister Jen once used an expression that I have often repeated: “It may stink in the ark (i.e., the Church, the ark of safety), but it beats drowning in the ocean.” I usually use it in response to very artistic people who lament the lack of manifest appreciation for creativity in the Church. I am very close to two wicked artistic people, my sister Jen and Norm, my husband. Thankfully, they are always seeking a place in the Church to bloom for Jesus, and it’s a good thing they do.

The church needs creative people. After all, they are mimicking their Creator. But, to be honest, the Church does not always warmly embrace these types of people, and often they go elsewhere with their talents, and the Church misses out on a great blessing.

There are also very creative people who use their talent and charisma to lead out in so-called supporting ministries of the Church. For example: restaurant work. The Lord used that vehicle to bring me into the church, for which I am eternally grateful. The problem was, because we were not active in the organized body, when the restaurants closed, we had nowhere to “bring the sheaves.” Some that could have been brought into our midst and have long since begun their own active ministries are still waving S.O.S. flags.

Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. He purchased it with His own blood. Therefore, we cannot hate the Church if we love Christ. We are told that the relationship between Christ and His church is very close and sacred: He, the Bridegroom and the Church, the Bride.[1] In fact, Christ and His Church are inseparable.[2]

The metaphor of the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, deeply moves me.[3] Perhaps this is because I appreciate my own husband’s large affections for me, but even when I was single, I cried at weddings. Marriage is one of the closest ties two people can have.

Another is the mother-child relation. This, too, was used by a Bible writer as a spiritual illustration. I serendipitously came upon it when I needed comfort soon after I was baptized: “As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13, NKJV). “That’s just what I need,” I thought. But there’s more. Isaiah goes on to say, “And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” When the Bible refers to Jerusalem, we can apply it to the Church, because it is today’s gathering place for the “called-out” ones, just as Jerusalem was in days of old.

When we seek to find our place in the Church, we are responding to the call, “gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children” (Joel 2:16),[4] and we are anticipating the outpouring of “the Spirit of grace and of supplications” (Zechariah 12:10). Taking our humble place among the “inhabitants of Jerusalem” positions us to continue “steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42). Who would want to miss all the action? I would be remiss not to advise that a weekly prayer meeting in the Church would facilitate revival. Thus saith the Lord, “I will meet you (there)” (Exodus 29:42, 43).

Getting back to Mary. She gave her all to Jesus. If we are not giving Him our all through the Church, why not? Let’s not be fooled into thinking that we are limiting the prospects for membership by stigmatizing ourselves as the Remnant Church (yikes!). If the claim comes from a reflection of the Christ-like life, which makes it appealing and convincing, then the great majority of God’s true people, who are still in other churches, will be overjoyed to find us!

Bring them in!

[1] See Ellen White, Evangelism (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1946), 318.

[2] Idem., Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3 (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1948), 418.

[3] See Revelation 21:2.

[4] Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version.

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