The promotion from beggar to sergeant at arms

This morning I was one of nearly 40 people working on peanut butter eggs.  I was scooting trays of eggs along a table and as the chocolate dried I would loosen the eggs from the waxed paper, and then consolidate them on a tray for the trimmers to do their job.  It is a nuisance to peel them from the waxed paper as you trim them.  I left for 5 minutes and when I returned my coffee cup was gone.  It had my name on it so I was walking all around to find it.  One guy asked me what I was looking for and I said, “My coffee cup. It has my name on it.”  He said, “I was scooting trays down and it was in my way so I threw it in the trash.”

Let me throw a disclaimer out there before I continue: I am thankful for this person and am not wanting to cause myself any problems or hurt anyone’s feelings, but this is too good not to write about.  And if you do not tell the person, they will not even know I used them as an illustration.

This person does not go to our church and this is their first season helping Wesley Chapel with the eggs.  The first few times the person came, they asked a lot of questions and were taking it all in.  On day one, this person would never have thrown my coffee cup away.  However, with seven weeks experience in their rear view mirror, I have noticed the person starting to give some orders.  And today the person felt empowered to throw my coffee cup away in the five minutes I was gone.

This brings to mind Michael Yacconelli’s quote about Church people from his book Messy Spirituality:

“It’s ironic: we stumble into a party we weren’t invited to and find the uninvited standing at the door making sure no other uninviteds get in. Then a strange phenomenon occurs: as soon as we are included in the party because of Jesus’ irresponsible love, we become self-appointed Kingdom Monitors, guarding the kingdom of God, keeping the riffraff out…”

Do you see the point I am making?  In church, it is too easy to begin to think we are somebody special.  I do not mean special as in, “Jesus loves me, this I know.”  I mean special as in this: I begin to believe there is something special about me and that’s why God made me the pastor.  Or someone else can begin to think because of 10 or 20 or 50 years of attending a church and financially supporting the church, that they should get to decide what color the new carpet is.  We forget that we are all accepted by God’s grace and we’re not the ruler of anything.  We are all to be followers – of Jesus.

What is often missing among God’s people is humility.  Pastors, me included, can easily forget that it is only God’s grace that allows us to be a pastor, and I can begin to think I am a pastor because I am so awesome and the people here are lucky to have me.  Church people can begin to believe that tithing and attendance make them deserving of a special status in the church.  We forget that the church has been getting along without us for 2000 years.  And most local churches have been going on without us for 100 years.  And one day the church you are attending will get along without you.

We are much better off if we remember that God’s acceptance and forgiveness does not make us the sergeant at arms, or the guard of the church or of the Kingdom of God.  For it is by grace I have been saved.  And if I am to boast, I will boast in the God who saved me.  And I will do my best to honor Him by showing grace to those who purposely throw my coffee cup away.  After all, I am no better than they.

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