Reisterstown United Methodist Church

This Old House

Who here likes “drop-in” company?  If your house is like mine, there are days I’m thrilled to have someone drop by.  But more often I like at least a little bit of notice so I can tidy up.  The shoes I kicked off in the great room last night are probably still there.  There are likely to be some dishes on the counter or an unfinished project on the coffee table.  And don’t get me started about Christmas wrapping paper (not now – honest – but in December if it takes me more than a day to wrap – you get the idea).  I do not like for people to see my mess – the real mess.


You know, if I’m really honest, I get deeply embarrassed when my house doesn’t look like Southern Living or House Beautiful.  Actually, and I know this is silly to the point of being stupid, I feel ashamed if everything isn’t just the way I want it to look.  Of course the most important thing is that people feel like I want them there.  Of course it’s about sharing with others and making them feel loved – but there it is!

However, some days I just don’t have the energy to keep up appearances.

Beloved, as Jacob Armstrong said, spending all the time and money in the world on the outside doesn’t matter when the inside is a mess.  And when I say the inside I don’t mean the shoes on the floor and the dishes in the sink.

Life is often messy. It is rarely perfect, no matter how it looks from the outside. On any given day, we have lots of stuff going on. And if we don’t, we can be sure that we are surrounded by people who do. When our lives are in shambles – when the chaos of life overwhelms – what do we do? The really scary thing to me is that I often see people I love simply withdraw.

When some of our families are in chaos due to marital challenges or financial troubles or challenges with the kids, or even when there has been a death, often I see them withdraw. Maybe they are ashamed because their life isn’t perfect – or they think that if anyone knew they were having challenges they would be judged by the very people who should be available to love them even more – their faith family. Maybe they are afraid that they will become emotional and shed a few tears during worship. Maybe they fear that they will fall asleep during the sermon because they are so bone weary. Maybe they can’t face sitting in a pew where they always sat with their beloved. And maybe there are a million other reasons that they isolate themselves. 

Mostly, I am guessing that it’s to protect the veneer that most of us carefully construct to show the world how fine we are – how well we are doing – maybe even how blessed we are. 

When we need God the most.  When we need the unconditional love of our faith family. 

Do you know about the class meetings – the small group method that Wesley used to help people walk the Way of Jesus?  At each of those class meetings, there was a central question:  how’s your soul today?  It wasn’t a time to pontificate about the Bible.  It was a time to tend souls.  How’s your soul today?  You know, they actually told each other!

I know I’ve told this story before, but here we go again.  On the day that I graduated from Wesley, one of my favorite professors asked that question in a pre-graduation worship service for the graduates and their families.  People were popping up to answer, some of them offering these deep soul-full and even biblical answers when our ten-year-old son stood up.  I was more than a little terrified at what he might say. 

You see, seminary was hard.  For all of us.   I wasn’t patient with my kids – I was too overwhelmed.  I was pulled this way and that.  I was serving a church near Annapolis, living in Brooklyn Park and going to school in Washington.  The kids were shuttled all over the place.  They were in late elementary school, so of course there were all kinds of kid activities.  We didn’t always get along.

So I was just about turning blue holding my breath when he was standing there waiting to be called on, hoping she wouldn’t see him.  But when Diedra called on him, Dennis said, “This has been really hard for all of us.  But today makes it all worth it.”

I didn’t want anyone to know how truly hard it had been.  I wanted everyone to think we sailed through like the perfect family – you know, with perfectly well-behaved children who were brilliant and managing to get through graduate school with absolutely no debt.  Yeah, right.

Armstrong tells of a young man who came to the altar in his church making it clear that he was in need of renovation.  And then he says:  “We have a warm feeling when we hear the story of Andrew and his vulnerable walk to the altar, but it’s a whole different story when we think about opening up and coming forward like that.  What if God has a renovation for each of us, but we have never allowed ourselves to dream about it?”

Beloved, the scripture is clear.  “The One who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”  We can trust God to work within us to bring about a renovation.  Unlike Joanna Gaines, we may not immediately know what we need renovated or what the result needs to be – but if we are willing to submit ourselves to the love and grace of God, miraculous things can happen!

Read More