On Friday and Saturday of last week, I traveled to Atlanta to spend time going over grant applications with an organization I greatly respect. Some of the deliberations were easy and others were quite difficult. In the midst of our conversations, one of the employees of the foundation shared with me how their director of communications reminds her often that "everything communicates." Who they fund communicates their mission. What they do communicates their motives. Every memo, decision, action, hire, grant effort, and activity communicates who they really are.
I am a pastor. Everything I do communicates. My actions on Sunday morning communicate - I am judged by whether or not I go out of my way to greet a first-time visitor and whether or not I remember their name when they return next week. My sermon communicates - hopefully it communicates the Good News of Jesus Christ but it also communicates whether I am liberal or conservative, open or closed, joyful or tired, and what kind of a church I visualize in my mind. Our church building communicates. Right now it is being restored. The restoration process communicates that we want to be an active presence in downtown Washington in the years to come. We want to serve our community, provide a space for authentic relationships to be lived and restored. We want to tell children the stories of Jesus. And, we want to celebrate God's presence in our lives in a sanctuary where the windows tell the stories, along with the beauty of the space. The way I spend my time communicates. If I go and visit the sick and the shut-ins, then I am considered a compassionate pastor. If I neglect to show hospitality to the stranger or our members, people will think there are problems. Everything communicates.
But as Christians, our entire lives communicate. I am amazed at how many of the books written today about how God is not great or why religion is wrong have been written out of disgust over the church. The authors of these books are disillusioned because the church has not been the church. Rather, the church has been too much like the world. Christians have preached one thing and done another thing. They have said they believe in a Savior who called for love of God and neighbor and then hated their neighbor. They have heard the call for justice and done everything but working for it. The church's communication - their actions and their words - has been a raw, empty communication. It has been a communication filled with more hatred than love.
I wonder what we communicate at Mount Vernon Place.
I am hopeful that we communicate a Gospel that is open to all people - young and old, rich and poor, gay and straight, Caucasian and African American, believers and doubters. I am hopeful that when people enter our temporary space that they feel welcome to come on in - just as they are. I am hopeful that people experience joy when they worship with us and that they receive the presence and the power of the living God. I am hopeful that people are given a reason to want to come back - a reason to get out of bed early on Sunday morning and spend a couple of hours at church. I am hopeful that people see a group of remarkable individuals who are trying to figure out how to be more faithful. I am hopeful that people see sinners and saints, and people who are working towards the latter. And, I am hopeful that people see a congregation filled with individuals who are more concerned about God's needs and desires than they are the church's needs and desires - that we focus our time and our attention on what is happening outside the doors of the church instead of inside.
God, forgive me for not always communicating your love and grace. Forgive me for coming up with names for some of the people around me that are outside of what you call them - beloved children of yours who are made in your image. Forgive me for preaching the Gospel with my words more often than with my life. Help me to communicate better your message of hope and salvation. Help me to be a better ambassador of your Son who preached good news to the poor, release to the captives and recovery of site to the blind. Amen.