07 October 2009

The Boxcar children and the Church

As strange as this may sound, I am trying to put some theological flesh on these strained bones. This has to do with the Holy Vessels and Holy Things of the Church as compared to the common or profane things of daily life and living in our homes.

If my memory were as sharp as that of my children, I would remember the names of the Boxcar children, but it is not and I do not. What I do remember is that these children ventured from their adoptive home and into the woods and found an old abandoned boxcar sitting on a small section of overgrown and no longer used railroad track. They conspire to make this their home away from home and set about to furnish it and make it habitable and comfortable.
As they rummage about in the woods in search of things to use as furniture or to fashion into the same, they happen upon an abandoned dump. A veritable treasure trove filled with unwanted and broken items from households that had most likely been refit with new, better, and more suitable replacements. A chipped cup, a cracked plate, a bent spoon, a fork missing a tine, vases, and furniture upon which one might hazard to sit. But for them, riches, for they had nothing of their own, and no money with which to buy things to appoint their ramshackle castle. Yet, they were overjoyed, content and at home.

Eventually they were found out and adopted by a good soul of means and although they rarely returned, they fondly remembered that old boxcar. Sorry if this is not retold according to Hoyle but it is the best that my memory can contrive.

The Church on the other hand, is not some forlorn and dilapidated abode desperate for occupants but rather a “residence” rich in gifts and treasures for all who will enter in. However, over time, the Holy Things of the House of God become worn, soiled, damaged and the like and need to be replaced. Oft times the cry is that what is there is sufficient for it still can serve its purpose and new is not required. “God will understand that we are in hard economic times.”

He does understand, but not as we would have Him do so. He understands that we are greedy and hard hearted. We would never hesitate to replace broken dishes or cups, twisted silver or unserviceable table linen in our own homes, as we would not endure the embarrassment of such poverty statements. Yet, we who have God’s pockets, filled with His gold and silver, would scarcely dip in a hand or finger to fish out even the smallest coin to keep His House in the finest order, the most splendidly appointed manor where He continues to come, humbly and with mercy to serve His invited guests. He the Host, and He the meal. You the honored guests, eating the finest fare ever given to man or beast.

Why have we adopted such an attitude that our home is our castle and should be the finest and most pleasantly appointed, yet the House of God needn’t be so? The Churches of yore were fabulous testimonies to the faith of those who built them. Not the popes who demanded them or the kings who built them for themselves, but rather the common men who labored to build them and often gave back much of their wage to purchase a finer board, or metal, or stone, tapestry or vessel. These places testify to the magnificence of God, His immeasurable presence among man, the vastness of His magnanimity.

Why is less “more” in our minds today? Why are we so selfish even in these tough economic times? Has God abandoned us? Has He failed to feed, clothe and house us today? Would He be wrong to chasten us for our greed and selfish ambition? We treat the house of God and the Holy Things of His house as if deserving of boxcar children excitement while at the same time not humbling ourselves to live less lavishly than the King of kings in our earthly houses. Should not the One who has given you all things, all of which are His, be given the finest and best you have to offer? Does not faith cling to the promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you” and thus by faith and in thanksgiving and trust, give the first fruits of His gifts to you, back to Him, that His Church, His Body of which you are a member, might flourish in magnificent grandeur, to the glory of God?

You have been adopted by the most generous Benefactor the world will ever know, He paid your debt in full and gives you the inheritance of heaven, co-heir with Christ Jesus. Clamoring for more of the treasures that moth and rust destroy, do you imperil your soul and your eternal dwelling place before God?


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Perhaps this attitude is related to how folks think of Church. Is Church and integral part of their lives - a place that is as much home to them as their own house - or has Church become that place they visit for an hour or two a week a best. The Church is a place people head to when convenient, and hence, they also give when it is convenient as well.

We live in strange selfish times - where the Church is to meet every felt need of the individual, but the individual feels no compunction to see that the needs of the Church are met.

Pastor Foy said...

Tragic but true and I believe you have said it better than I would like to hear it.

God is supposed to give us what we want and His servants are to be the handmaidens of His gifts and also the collectors of the trash His children leave behind.

Everything else takes priority over the life and care of the Church. Talk of trying to be relevant to retain vibrancy is foolish and worldly and not only does not work but, it has and continues to set the Church back and as obsolete and unable to "keep with the times" which it need not do.

Anonymous said...

A symptom of this attitude is the chronic tendency many congregations and their members (and Pastors too) have to collect JUNK. On my vicarage I was tasked with cleaning out a closet (ah the things for vicarage!). The box neatly marked "burnt out light bulbs" was indeed full of well over 100 burnt out light bulbs! I served a vacancy once where they had an annual rummage sale and the leftovers had literally taken over almost the entire church, some items being left unsold and stored there year after year. The worst I've seen is an LCMS congregation where the Pastor wisely scheduled a "cleansing of the temple" weekend ala Josiah: