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Life in Greencastle: Thursday, March 12, 2009

I have been trying to meet some of the other ministers in town, to find out how we might work, pray and serve this community together. So about once a week, I find myself stepping foot into another church. You learn a lot by doing that. For instance, in the sanctuary of the Nazarene church across the street there is a 't' carved out of the east-facing wall and it has been filled in again with red plastic. The effect it makes is a blood red cross which bathed the whole sanctuary space the day I visited.

When I was leaving Gobin Methodist the other day, I noticed a small plaque on the wall near the administrative offices - signifying the day The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. entered that church's pulpit and preached. That plaque is an ongoing testimony to Gobin's ongoing desire to bring social-justice.

And, back in February, I drove out to a tiny "country" church to worship and visit my brother-in-law who was playing with a worship band. On the church walls, the minister (a young man named Joel who is seeking to plant a congregation) had chosen to hang not just the American flag on the walls, but a flag from Japan and England and France and Mexico and several other nations.

Our structures and our worship spaces communicate a lot about us. True: we are a congregation of believers, not bricks. But still, our bricks do say something about us. No doubt about it. So what does our church communicate?

I asked myself that question, and the first thing that entered my mind is "our church worships." Indeed, when you drive up to our church, turning east off Round Barn Road, you start driving up an incline, and there at the top is a cross - centered and triumphant. But that is not the only clue. The first thing you encounter as you walk through our front doors: our worship space where again you are greeted with a cross.

I do not know much about who envisioned our church building. I was not present for the conversations where we - as a community - weighed whether to remain near the library or on a new site. I didn't talk with the architects. But, I gather someone was thinking this: Worship comes first. Worship is central - specifically our worship of God the Father through Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

In fact, when you arrive on Sunday, you may not consciously think the following, but someone has: our church has been structured so that we might gather as a community, enter to worship God and depart again to serve our community. Oh, and thanks be to God: we might also spend some time lingering in the wings - enjoying a meal together, learning together, serving our community in this space.

This Sunday in worship we will wrestle with the single most important building in Jesus' day and ministry: the Temple. We'll wrestle again with what that structure was communicating ... what it was supposed to communicate. Which will invite us as a community to ask again what our building says.

Interestingly, I happened to sit down with three DePauw students yesterday, and one of the first questions I was asked was, "So ... where is the Presbyterian church?"

As we prepare to gather as a community, let's thank God that we have a place to gather. And let's thank God that our "structure" communicates well. But, let us also remember this: our church cannot go out and tell people where it is. Only we can. Only we can be bearers of the gospel to this place.

Wes

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