“Earning your trust, so that together we develop a deep love for God and others.”
A Loving God Story
A few years ago, I threw a big party for my daughter. And as all parents will tell you, the onramp of any child’s party is intense labor and coordination. You got chairs, tables, table cloths, food, center pieces, piñatas, cake, clean up (before and after), invitations, music, and then of course you need to host. After every party my wife and I always collapse from exhaustion.
Well, it just so happened that at this particular party the jumper arrived before the party began. My daughter was thrilled! She jumped in and invited me into the fun saying, “Papi, come jump with me!” Completely lost in the task of prepping her party I said, “I can’t right now mija, I need to put up the tables and chairs before people arrive.”
Well, it just so happened that our good friend Marilu overheard our interaction and said to me “Your daughter does not need tables and chairs right now, she needs her dad.” I quickly dropped the folding table and jumped in to having some fun! We ended up having a great moment together!
The irony of my story is that I was throwing a party for my daughter, but I was too busy to enjoy a moment with her. It reminds me of the story in the Bible of Martha who forfeits the oppurtunity to have a moment with Jesus because she is too busy serving him and his disciples. I’m also reminded of a church mentioned in the Book of Revelation, a church marked by leadership, perserverance, and hard work, yet lacked a “first love” for God. Somehow it seems that we have a tendency to stray from loving God with deep affection, whether we are religious or not.
As the lead pastor of our church I have a healthy fear of losing my “first love” status with Jesus and I recognize that the falling away may not necessarily be connected to sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll (although these are real distractions as well). We live in an age of all kinds of distratctions, hype, fads, and trends. All of these things can easily consume our hearts and become vain and empty pursuits that rob of us of having a significant relationship with God and others.
At Hope Community Church we desire to have an enduring focus on loving God first. All other things must revolve around this primary end. Lord helps us to love you and have significant moments with you.
Quick Response Prayer: Lord forgive my negligence and distractions. Help me to prioritize you in my life. Let’s start fresh and help me to make you first in my life again. Thank you for your forgiveness. Amen
A Loving Your Neighbor Story
In his book, Tattoo’s on the Heart, Father Greg Boyle tells the story of the time when their church decided to allow the homeless men of the community to sleep in the sanctuary of their church on a regular basis. As a result the place started to smell like dingy feet. He jokes that every Sunday he tried to cover up the smell by throwing “I Love My Carpet” on the rug and placing potpourri in strategic places.
People were beginning to grumble and word was that some were considering going to a different church. Father Greg decided to address the issue head on with his congregation one Sunday morning.
He asked the people, “What’s the church smell like?” Many people were sheepish to say anything while some pretended they did not hear him ask the question? Finally this one guy chimes in and says it “Huele a patas!” (It smells like feet).
“Excellent. But why does it smell like feet?”
“Cuz many homeless men slept here last night?” says a woman.
“Well, why do we let that happen here?”
“Es nuestro compromiso” (it’s what we’ve committed to do) says another.
“Well, why would anyone commit to do that?”
“Porque es lo que haría Jesús.” (It’s what Jesus would do)
“Well, then… what’s the church smell like now?”
A man stands and bellows, “Huele a nuestro compromiso” (It smells like our commitment).
The place cheers. Guadalupe waves her arms wildly “Huele a rosas” (It smells like roses). The packed church roars with laughter and a newfound kinship that embraced someone else’s odor as their own.
I share this story because we see Father Greg’s parish as a model for a successful church. Like Father Greg’s church we also want to live out a commitment to know and love the people in our neighborhood. Father Greg’s church has helped the lives of gangsters, undocumented immigrants, the homeless, and the poor rise out what I call the quick sand of the inner city.
In the story of the Good Samaritan we read about both a national and a local religious leader that do nothing for a beaten victim lying naked in a pool of his own blood. They decide to cross the street instead of attending to a man in extraordinary need. These two religious leaders are reminders that we can have religious acclaim, title, and notoriety and yet miss the most fundamental thing of having a practical expression of compassion. In contrast, the Samaritan shows mercy and provides extraordinary care for the man in need.
Quick Response Prayer: Lord, who do I know today that is hurting and how might I be like the Samaritan and show extrodinary love? Jesus, help me to love others. Amen.
**The two stories mentioned above serve as guides for our church. They are two stories that capture the heartbeat of our mission statement which is to Earn your trust, so that together we develop a deep love for God and others.”