I read a story this week that was challenging to me. It was a story of brokenness and hopelessness. All of us have the potential to be broken in our lives. All of us have the possibility of despair and hopelessness.
Last week Patricia Thompson robbed a bank. She then went outside and threw the money up in the air and waited for the police to come. Why? She wanted to go back to prison. She was released in June from a Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Oregon and having no place to go and having been beaten up on the streets she decided that living in jail was better and safer.
I know that other people have done this and I know that mental illness is a major factor with the incarcerated but not everyone is mentally ill and there are lots of people who have nowhere to go when they are released.
I think this is one of the things that bothered me the most the last few years I was in church leadership. We talk a pretty good game on Sunday morning. Bigger churches focus on having all the bells, whistles and toys, (for those of you not familiar with church “bells whistles and toys” refers to bigger buildings, state of the art media, the latest coolest music etc.) Smaller churches often focus on survival while all the time the world around us is going to hell in the proverbial hand basket. WE (the church) were supposed to be the world changers. We were supposed to have this life changing, dynamic, powerful message that would set the captive free. But somehow we never had enough power or energy or time or care or love and compassion to get it done. Let’s be honest, the bulk of the churches resources is spent on ourselves. I never knew what to do about it. I could see the problem but so many people just wanted to connect to an “awesome service” before rushing off to lunch that calling them to actually care about their world seemed like a daunting task. I honestly tried.
Sure there are a few that hear God’s voice and put themselves in a place to be used by God. Recently some people I know started a support group for parent’s with kids with drug addictions. That’s a great thing. I know of a high school friend that has given their life to run, fund and lead a rescue mission that deals with the marginalized people of society. Awesome. Another friend or two locally live this out in the local jail almost daily. Wonderful.
I guess as I look at this woman’s face and wonder about her life . . . I start thinking much deeper about the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25:
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ Matthew 25:44-45 NLT
I wish the church had the inclination and the power to make a difference. I wish that churches would not be too afraid or too lazy and distracted to find ways to make changes.Even writing these words makes me sound cranky but in reality do you really think God desires to hear yet another Sunday of our little songs and watch us watch the pastor deliver yet another message? He wants us . . . no He longs for us to be His presence on this earth and that is not done by sitting in church. I’m certainly not opposed to gathering for church but if that is it than that is woefully short of what God intended for His church on this earth to be.
Isiah recorded God’s feelings better than anyone in Isaiah 1:
When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? 13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me . . . . . I want no more of your pious meetings . . .
15 When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen . . . 17 Learn to do good.Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.”
My prayer is that God will open my eyes and the right doors so that I can walk through them and make a hands on difference in the lives of real people. Broken and hurting people. Lost and forgotten people. People that would think the church is the last place to go and find help. I mean this will all my heart. I couldn’t be more serious. I pray for me. I pray for the church. God loathes lukewarmness.
To Patricia Thompson . . . I’m sorry there was no place for you to go. I’m sorry the church was apparently not an option. It breaks my heart.