Monday, April 11, 2016

The Baker's Dozen

    During the holiday seasons cookie recipes fly through cyber space and land in kitchens waiting to be mixed, baked, decorated and displayed. But only the kitchen-tested, most uniform, and perfectly baked will survive long enough to be presented to guests. The ones that are a little too brown around the edges or broken will be tossed or used to appease the appetites of those who could care less about the irregular appearance of the warm, tasty dough.
     Have you ever been in a church service on a day the congregation was “tested” for its compassion? You know the one. An unkempt man or woman enters and moves noticeably to the front pew as the congregation reacts. Some may stiffen with the awkwardness. Others may show downright indignation. More often than not, at least one tender soul will do exactly the right thing to welcome the person who is obviously in need of pastoral care and prayer and who, like the broken pastry, might otherwise be cast aside in favor of one more suitable.
     What about the more discreet differences. Perhaps the person standing next to me is more demonstrative in their worship than I. Or maybe I know the political bent of a fellow Bible Study class member, and I don’t feel it lines up correctly with scripture. A more timid or reserved attendee may come across as aloof or unfriendly, while someone with an outgoing personality who is ready to jump in and tackle any service project or need the church may have could intimidate a more laid-back approach to church life.
      Few of us would nestle comfortably into a “cookie cutter” form of Christianity. What would that look like anyway? Who would get to set the criteria for that batch of believers? Hopefully, not most of the original New Testament congregations:

“But to what shall I compare this generation? 
It is like children sitting in the market places, 
who call out to the other children, and say, 
’We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; 
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’” 
(Matthew 11:16,17, NASB) 

     God’s personal messenger, John the Baptist, chosen to prepare the way for the Messiah, couldn’t even please them:

“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’” 
(Matthew 11:18) 

     And how about those scruffy disciples? A reformed persecutor/murderer, tax collector, a doubter, even a spy-turned-betrayer (and his replacement) rounded out this Baker’s dozen. Not a great public offering from a worldly view.

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 
'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, 
a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” 
(Matthew 11:19, NASB) 

      Jesus didn’t fare any better than the others in the Pharisee’s eyes. It’s time for us to lose those cookie cutters and throw open the doors of our sanctuaries --- while we still can --- united and with the invitation that comes from the King of Kings. Thankfully, Jesus had His own standards for His church family imprinted on His nail-scarred, outstretched hands:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, 
and you will find rest for your souls. 
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” 
(Matthew 11:28-30, NASB)

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