This week has been a swirl of activity around the Aztec Methodist Church. A group of workers have spent time cleaning out rooms that have not been thoroughly cleaned in years. Many things have been discarded (1,440 pounds went to the dump from Tuesday and Wednesday’s work alone). But many things have found a new home. Piles of items have been placed on the curb for people to take for free, and they have disappeared to new homes. If an item was broken, and stored to “fix later” it was discarded (especially those that have been waiting many years for someone’s attention). The dungeon (the unfinished “basement” under the sanctuary) has been cleared of much of its clutter. The Youth room has been not only cleared out but repainted. Even with all this, there is still much that needs to be done so it will be an ongoing project.
But perhaps the more important thing that happened this week was community outreach. Many excess craft items were taken to daycare centers in town. Aztec Health Care (formerly Good Sam) welcomed old CDs of classical and vintage music that will entertain their residents. Several businesses in town were able to take items that have been sitting unused on our shelves for years. But most importantly, many of our members had conversations with the people who were benefitting from our free piles curbside. At least one bible was given out, and people were invited to worship if they had no church home. We also prayed for some who have difficulties in their lives.
This kind of outreach is something we should have been doing all along but had gotten out of the habit. We were focused inward, not outward. But God is calling us to work in the world, though taking care not to be of the world. We need to find ways of continuing the outreach. Many years ago Rebecca Pippert wrote a book called “Out of the Salt Shaker”. She noted that Jesus said we are the salt of the earth, but if salt stays in the shaker it doesn’t do much to season food. So also if Christians remain within the walls of the church we don’t season the lives of our community. We need to keep moving out and finding ways of sharing our faith with those who won’t come into the church building.
In modern church circles new ways of reaching out are being called “Fresh Expressions” of the Christian faith. Christian leaders are encouraging churches to find creative new ministries that aren’t bound by the church walls, or by the ways we have” always” done things. Jesus is constantly renewing the church and says we need new wine skins in which to put the new wine. This is not to say what we have always done is “bad” or “wrong”. We need to remember that sometimes “new” is also important.
But it is not just the church that needs to look at its habits and practices. We as individuals need to be open to God’s Spirit as well. It is amazing how much spiritual “junk” I find when I look closely at myself. There are habits that have crept into my life that interfere with my relationship with God. There are images I have of God that limit how I view my creator. There are preconceptions I have about people that get in the way of developing a relationship with them. There are images I have of myself that keep me from accepting God’s work to renew me.
But thanks be to the God who is not willing to let us stay in our old ways but is constantly renewing the gifts we are given, and enabling us to work with the Spirit to become more fully the people God calls us to be, both as individuals and as the body of Christ.