Hang out… Listen… Walk in the truth. That’s what I heard in a sermon yesterday. The preacher is a young guy. Heck, Tim’s hardly even a thirty something. He’s a kid! And he’s got this nailed. Because he lives in the land of young people and he’s always looking around.
He told us that these days people don’t come to faith by listening like they used to. They used to go: to hear a message, to listen, then believe and make a commitment. Now, Tim said (actually he said people who study this are saying) people come to faith by talking. Easy enough. All we need to do is listen.
Yes! These people need someone to talk to, someone who will hear their side, someone who will listen to their stories, empathize in the difficulties, nod and smile, and put an arm around a shoulder. And remain silent. Unless and until Jesus shares words we’re meant to speak. We’re admonished to be quick to listen and slow to speak, not because we’re not meant to use our words but because words, absent of Christ, indict us.
Mid afternoon Sunday I am driving with my daughter to a soccer team meeting scheduled in a room at a library near her Sunday evening indoor soccer game. The team has arranged this location as a convenience for busy people to attend. We arrive and pull into an entrance way shared between the library parking lot on the right and a church parking lot on the left. Straight ahead is this sign: “CHURCH LOT NOT OPEN TO SOCCER PARKING.”
It stops me cold. I was lucky not to get rear-ended. There are no soccer fields in sight. Simply trees, a library, snow and a mostly empty church parking lot. (Fortunately, there was ample parking at the library.) Yet, the message reads clearly: Soccer players and their families are not welcome here.
Now I am certain that is NOT the message intended by the people who erected the sign. I do not know them. I’ve never been to their church. But as a church-going Christian and a soccermom I understand the battle for parking that goes on on Sundays. Sunday morning soccer games thrive in our area. Spectators come in droves. But the church needs this space for their parishioners on Sundays; please park elsewhere.
They know what they mean to say, but do they know what this means when soccer families read it? My daughter did immediately. She said, “Oh Mom, you have to take a picture of that.” She gets the message. And so do I. This is the message that can underlie our church-speak if we’re not careful. If we don’t hear from Christ first about whether to speak and what to say, our anger can come right out of our mouths. And while it can sound very right to us, it can, to those looking and listening with very discerning eyes and ears, sound very wrong.
To them that sign reads: “You should be in church on Sunday.” Or even, “If soccer is more important to you than church on a Sunday morning, you are not welcome here.”
That permanent green and white sign, erected with forethought and some significant expense, greets everyone who drives to the library, many of whom are soccer families, some of whom are struggling with the challenge that soccer on Sundays has created for their best intentions to get to church on a Sunday. Do we know how we sound?
This morning, the words of Joe Friday came to me (Yes, from Dragnet; I am very much older than Pastor Tim). Every week, Joe nailed the crook, and he would read the suspect his Miranda rights. In the United States, the Miranda warning is required by law to prevent a suspect from compelled self-incrimination (a violation of the 5th amendment). It states:
- You have the right to remain silent when questioned.
- Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish.
Usually, Joe ended with. “Do you understand your rights?” And the suspect usually said, “I want a lawyer.”
Because, of course, Joe Friday always got his man. And when you’re guilty, you know you need a lawyer. You have the right to counsel. An advocate who will speak with you, and if necessary, for you.
We have the right to remain silent. And in this silence to call on our counselor who will surely offer wise advice. Perhaps, to sit quietly. Perhaps, to say what you need. Perhaps, to go and be with them wherever they are, even on a Sunday morning. And when the time is right, to introduce them to the Friend who came with you.