But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart so that you can do it. Deut. 30:14 ESV
Imagine your church sanctuary as a bit of a petting zoo. If you’re a parent like me, you already know the kids would be a whole lot more excited about going to church on Sunday morning. Nothing like petting a puppy to help the sermon go down.
Have I offended enough of you yet? While this imagery might be too much like a fantastical Tim Burton movie plot scrambled into our North American churchgoing context, it’s pretty close to everyday Christianity in the greater worldwide Church (which, by the way, dwarfs us 3 to 1…). “Going to church” might very well refer to the open-air cement slab on the outskirts of town with a series of handhewn hardwood trees propping up a rusty corrugated tin roof. All God’s creatures great and small are welcome there whether you like it or not.
My mind quickly shifts to our four years as a family in Cambodia and I can’t help but smile as I play back the mental home movie of my Maggie and Anna staring in wide-eyed wonder at the pet parade scrambling by in the middle of a lusty, cranked-to-11 Cambodian (Khmer) congregational rendition of “How Great Thou Art”–rats, cats, chickens and dogs all making themselves comfortable as doorkeepers in the house of God. And this was at New Jerusalem Church in the middle of Phnom Penh–at one million strong, the largest city in the whole country.
But keep this movie running for a moment. Cut to another Sunday morning worship service in Phnom Penh. We had just arrived, diaper bags, kids, vocabulary lists and multiple translations of our Bibles in tow (both English and Khmer). As we gave our greetings and claimed five of the ubiquitous wobbly blue plastic stacking chairs near the back, I gingerly sat down (imagine a rather large, profusely-sweating white man sitting on the back of a very nervous miniature pony and you’ll get the idea…) and plopped my collection of Bibles on the floor in front of me. And almost just as immediately, one of the older Khmer women near me swooped in, quickly picked up my Bibles and reverently placed them on the chair next to me. Her eyes never met mine, but I heard her message loud and clear. “The word of God is very near you…”
In that dusty, animal-friendly sanctuary for God’s ordinary, dearly loved people, God’s Word as Scripture–His sword, fire and breath–was remarkable, set apart and worthy of reverence. Undeserving of a casual placement on the floor, that sweet sister in Christ dared to remind me that my Bible is living and active, my Father’s living words to me, effective and powerful, for real, saving Life.
The word of God is very near you…so that you can do it. As God carried the authors of the Bible along to capture His living words for our life, He also gives you and I, as its readers, the capacity to practice it every day as we live on this precious-yet-fading planet.
How has God’s living Word been speaking to you lately?
He is very near us…even while we’re scratching the scraggly puppy’s ears.
Blanchard Action Point: In anticipation of our worship service (and the sermon I’m preparing) at Blanchard Warrenville this coming Sunday, Sept. 13th, join me in listening to God by reading and thinking about Acts Chapter 10 (in the second half of the Bible, the New Testament) . It’s the story of God speaking clearly to two very different men, Cornelius (a Roman centurion) and Peter (a fisherman/church leader). How is God very near to you through this beautiful story?