Pastoral Post 12.22.2017

STAGING GROUND

By: Rev. Keith Turman

Webb Heating and Air moved out of their old warehouse into a brand new one just down the road. The now abandoned warehouse became the staging ground for a new church. In some ways we were like that broken-down building—dust on tired furniture, cobwebs in hidden places, a funky-smelling room and one that was filled with rusty parts. And the roof leaked. And the toilet wouldn’t flush. But we were filled with hope. It’s what had brought us together in the first place. So we carried that hope—with a little Murphy’s Oil Soap—into that hopeless old place.

Every year, our renovated front lobby became the staging ground for Operation Christmas Child. Shoeboxes filled with gifts were stacked to the ceiling and later shipped around the world with hope that children would experience God’s love at Christmas.  It brought joy to give like this, knowing we brought smiles to faces we would never see.

Our family left that old place for a new one in Kaunas, Lithuania. The new church was actually an old storefront bar, now renovated into the Eigulai United Methodist Church. There were many surprises in this new place, but none quite like the first Christmas season. I arrived one Sunday morning for worship, and walked into a lobby filled with shoeboxes—stacked to the ceiling. I will never, ever, forget the smiles.  I will also never forget that, by design, they delivered way too many boxes.

Our front lobby became the staging ground. Our kids loaded up those boxes and gave them away to other kids in the schools and orphanages around the church. I saw a different kind of smile on their faces—a much deeper joy. And hope moved into that tired place.

A staging ground held the manger. Inconspicuously sacred, only a few kneeled there, because only a few were aware. I wonder if they could fully grasp the meaning?  I wonder if we can even begin to understand? God leaves splendor and glory to move into our despair. Is it possible that our graffiti and rust and stink is not just painted over but actually scrubbed clean? Is it possible that the abundance is on purpose?

I am sure of it. A desperate world is waiting for a Hope that has already come, and that Hope is waiting for us to move in.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:14, 16) 

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