I can hear it now! "What does that big city pastor think he's doing by suggesting that the Church, the body of Christ, can learn something from a secular festival?!" It's almost like the song from one of my wife's favorite musicals entitled "The Music Man" where people fear that there's "Trouble in River City!"
Well, I assure you that I'm not trying to cause trouble in "River City," but I do believe that God gives us every experience to teach us how his word can apply to the day to day realities that we face.
Last weekend was a special treat! Not because several of our members returned safely from their pilgrimage to Florida (although I am thankful for such). Not because I felt like I was reliving the glory days of North Wilkesboro as our highways and by-ways were converted into a racetrack when our population temporarily doubled (watch out for turn three, it's a doozy!). Not even because our members engaged in various ways with this opportunity volunteering as students of the university, serving as security guards, driving shuttles for the visiting talent, and serving in many other capacities. It was a special treat for me personally because my family and I had the opportunity to go and walk among the people of Merlefest!
We saw vendors, food, several of our members, extended family of those members and others who attend our church, and we heard some really good music. This is a normal experience for many and even a motivation for others to get out of town due to the traffic, crowds, and general transformation that our beloved borough undergoes. Yet, I believe that Jesus would be right smack dab in the middle of it all!
So here are a few brief observations as we walk this trail together:
Opportunity! Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. I loved seeing so many of our members (yes, even on Sunday) serving in the community and influencing those at the festival.
Incarnation! Jesus, the Word, became flesh and dwelt among us (or "moved into the neighborhood" as The Message paraphrase says). What a great opportunity for local churches to say that they are going to be the flesh and blood of Jesus by walking among their neighbors and guests (and loving them along the way). Sounds vaguely like that second great command that Jesus taught about "loving thy neighbor as thyself." (Yes, I just used the KJV sentiment there and no, I'm not speaking in tongues).
Flaunt it! The old phrase says, "if you've got it...flaunt it!" Now, that can go in a lot of directions. Many of which I will not explore in this blog, but you get the gist. Merlefest had an excellent program with many exceptional people working behind the scenes in support of the significant talent on stage. Have we, as the church, lost that concept? Every Sunday (and every day for that matter) is an opportunity to worship our amazing God. Yet, we treat church, God, and our faith sometimes like a day-old bologna sandwich. It's good if you're really hungry (in need/crisis), but otherwise...
This is getting a bit long, so I will let you go for now. I suspect that there may be some additional observations in the works for a sequel to this post. Keep looking around you just like Jesus did and learn from the experiences that God gives you. Make the Bible part of your daily recommended allowance of spiritual nourishment and see how God will apply His word to your life experiences today!