What the DMV can teach the Church

On December 29, I had to make not one, but two visits to the DMV. On the last business day of the year, I had to stop in at two different Departments of Motor Vehicles.

Now, truth be told, I’m not sure either uses that title: DMV. But when I say that, you know exactly what I mean, right?

The first was the County Clerk, and I was there on their final day because, just that morning, I had received my settlement letter for our van that had been in a wreck. (To be clear, it wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t driving. Kim was. Ok, to be fair, it wasn’t her fault, either.) Anyway, to make sure I didn’t pay taxes on a van I no longer owned, I had to get it off the books by December 31. And it just so happened that on the last possible day, my settlement letter was available, so I ran by my insurance agent’s office, picked up the letter, and promptly took it with me to the County Clerk.

I walked in, pulled the little tab-number-thing, and noticed it said: 90. I looked up at the board showing what number they were serving. It read: 44. Thankfully, I was less than a mile from my house, so I went home, grabbed some lunch, and came back. And when I arrived back at the clerk’s office, the number on the board was 82. Sweet! Absolutely perfect timing. Before long, they called my number, I gave the woman my paperwork, and I was off.

Off to my next DMV visit. Or, more specifically, to the Kentucky Court of Justice, Division of Driver’s License – for my daughter’s driver’s test. As she took her test, I hung out in the waiting room. (Like the County Clerk, my wait wasn’t very long. Unfortunately, it was because she failed her test. Stupid parallel parking. But that’s another blog post.)

Anyway, as I visited two waiting rooms, I couldn’t help but think about how everybody has to go and spend time at the DMV. If you are going to drive a car, you will go to the DMV. Rich and poor. Black, white, and brown. Young and old. No exceptions. If you want to enjoy the freedom that driving affords, you will do your time at the DMV.

So, I couldn’t help but notice the other nervous teenager taking her driving test. As well as the immigrant navigating the DMV, perhaps for the first time. My attention was also drawn to the older white woman talking with the middle-age African-American lady.

And it occurs to me: the DMV is what the Church should be. A cross-section of the beautiful diversity that is people – those made in the image of God. Just as the DMV forces me to rub shoulders with people who are similar to me, and those who seem to be nothing like me – shouldn’t the Church be like that, too? Not to be PC, or to meet some political agenda – but because this is exactly what God has always had in mind for His Church.

The Gospel of Luke tells us that when Mary & Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple for his dedication, it brought them into contact with a guy named Simeon. And this old guy grabs the baby, and says these amazing words: This baby has been prepared by God in the presence of all people to be a light of revelation for Gentiles and the glory of the people of Israel (see Luke 2.25-35).

Luke says that Mary and Joseph are amazed – not sure what to do with these words. But what Simeon is saying is pretty straightforward, and a lot easier to understand in hindsight: Jesus came to bring hope to ALL people. To bring reconciliation among Jews and Gentiles – two groups at least at much at odds in Jesus’ day as any two groups you might want to mention from today’s world.

In other words, from the beginning, before Jesus spoke his first word, it is made clear: He has come that the Church might look more like the DMV. A place for all backgrounds, all colors, all nations, all languages.

And the reason the Church should look like that? Not, ultimately, because of the DMV. But because of Heaven. A place where, we are told, an uncountable multitude from every ethnic group, every tribe, every people, and every language will stand before Jesus and cry out, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7.9-10)

And so, it all comes down to this: Jesus is for everyone. Even those who can’t parallel park.

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How Will You Respond?

This past Sunday, I shared my response to the recent presidential election. It had been almost 2 weeks since America had voted, which, I think, was a good thing. Time and distance help give perspective and much-needed balance.

Because many of you would not have heard me share my thoughts, and because some of you might want to consider again what I had to say, here is the gist of what I shared at Fern Creek Christian, post-election:

 

I didn’t stay up Election Night to see who had won. My need for sleep outweighed my need to find out the results, state-by-state. But, whether you found out at 3am, or 6am, or 9 or noon, all of us had a reaction. In this regard, we’re no different than any one else; people all over our country, and all over the world, had a reaction.

But more important than our reaction, is our response. A reaction happens in the moment; a reaction is determined by circumstances.

A response, however, isn’t determined by circumstances, but by who we are. And who we are is the Church: the people of God; the body of Jesus Christ; the family united in One Spirit. That’s our identity.

So, no matter what your reaction is to last week’s election, let me frame what I think should be our response as followers of Jesus:

  1. Presidents come and go. Good, bad, or somewhere in the middle; presidents don’t last forever.
  2. Jesus, however, does. He is the same yesterday, today, forever (Hebrews 13.8).
  3. Jesus didn’t get all that worked up about politics. In Luke 13.31-32, the Pharisees come and tell Jesus that King Herod is trying to kill him. Jesus doesn’t panic; he doesn’t even change his plans. Instead, in essence, he responds: You tell that fox that I’m on a mission, and nothing will deter me from it. Simply put: Jesus was not deterred by political OR religious leaders from fulfilling his calling.
  4. That calling? To lovingly seek and save the lost, giving his life for ALL people.
  5. Jesus is in charge of the Church, so guess what we’re going to continue to do? Reach people with Jesus’ love, and point them to the kingdom of God.
  6. And because every one needs Jesus, the Church is a place for everyone. Democrats are welcome, and Republicans. Independents, too. Folks born in Louisville. Folks born in other states. And folks born in other countries.

Last week, I attended the International Conference on Missions. While there, I attended a workshop led by a guy whose church has an active ministry to folks from Myanmar who have settled in their area. Other folks in that session chimed in, discussing their church’s outreach to foreign-born folks in their communities. It was very encouraging to hear.

And then a young woman raised her hand, and said: “I’m a first-generation refugee.” Tears formed in her eyes as she recalled her experience: “People were cruel to me when I got here,” she told us.

But she responded to what she had heard in that room: It’s encouraging to see a roomful of people who care.

Is that not the Church? A roomful – a family – of people who care? We follow Jesus, and, as Preston Sprinkle has pointed out: Jesus didn’t do a background check before he chose to love others.

So, the church where I serve is not a reactive church. Which means: our first calling isn’t to get sucked into “reactionary” conversations, especially with those who don’t know Jesus.

Instead, let’s be a responsive church; where our response to the love and grace of Jesus that WE have experienced, is to share that with Every One.

There will always be people in power, and they’ll use power how they see fit. We should pray for them, and hold them accountable when they go outside of the appropriate use of power.

But the Power of Love is what changes lives. And nothing can change that. So, no matter what happens in Washington, or Frankfort, or City Hall – for good or for ill – the Church should never budge from using the power it has. That power? It’s simply the power of the love of Jesus. Working in us, and through us. Reaching out. To Every One.

Where do we most clearly see God?

In his most recent sermon, John Ortberg says: We worship God at the manger. We rejoice with God at the empty tomb. But we encounter God at the cross.

In other words, the place we most clearly see who God is, what God is about, what kind of God we have is to look at the cross. If we want to sum up how God chooses to reveal Himself, it’s not ultimately through words, or laws, or rules, or dogma – it’s ultimately and conclusively through Jesus, the Among-Us and With-Us God, giving himself on the cross.

If we who know God most encounter Him at the cross, how do we expect those who don’t know God to encounter Him through us? Not laws, or rules, or dogma; but through our cruciform lives. We carry our crosses as we sacrificially give ourselves to others. What the world needs most, is what we need most: The Cross – the place where all the love of God met all the brokenness of this world, and Love Won! The Cross is the place where God’s victory began – a victory that will be complete at Jesus’ return.

Until then, it’s a victory we get to participate in – where we get to share that cruciform love with each other, and the world. The cross isn’t just a place where Jesus died; it’s also the place where love radiates through our lives, all throughout the world, and all throughout time.

So, where do you see God? Look to the cross. And help others look there, too.