What does it really mean to obey Jesus Christ?

A church outside of Seattle experienced a break-in the week before Christmas. The individual shattered the glass at the front entrance and found their way into the main office, which prompted the security alarm to go off. The intruder fled empty-handed to avoid a confrontation with the police.

It is easy to imagine that the church leadership took the typical responsible steps: arrived at the church, assessed the situation, swept up the glass, boarded up the windows, and considered how to better protect their building. Perhaps they even grumbled about the non-budgeted expenses that they would now have to incur because of this “outsider.”

But on Sunday morning, the pastors approached the communion table with a vase full of broken glass and said, “This past week, someone broke into our building. Someone needed something that we had here and was desperate enough to push their way in. So now they are a part of our community. They are a member of this church.”

That Sunday, as well as many Sundays that followed, the congregation prayed for their newest member. The vase of broken glass remained on the communion table as a reminder of who the congregation was called to be.

A few years after the incident, one of the pastors said this, “… nothing more came from that specific situation—other than a decision to change our alarm company. However, it did launch us into an all-church, and all-neighborhood, intentional discussion to support houseless folk. It’s been a rough year trying to change culture, both in the church and in the community. For example, it all came to a boil when we allowed a guy to live in his RV in our parking lot. But because of that, we have an even stronger relationship with our police department who send people to us who we can support. We also created a Community Assistance Plan, which includes a team and a designated fund. Best part—we got some non-churchgoing neighbors to be on our team with us!”

The Confession of 1967 compels us to consider a life that eagerly seeks transformation: “With an urgency born of this hope, the church applies itself to present tasks and strives for a better world. It does not identify limited progress with the kingdom of God on earth, nor does it despair in the face of disappointment and defeat. In steadfast hope, the church looks beyond all partial achievement to the final triumph of God” (BOC, The Confession of 1967, 9.55). This call was as central to Christ’s ministry as it is to us today: he ministered to the sick, poor, outcast, marginalized, and forgotten people around him. While he had a fair number of followers and admirers, he also had critics who did not like the ways he bent the rules to embrace love. Yet Jesus did not allow the negative responses to persuade him to turn away from the neighbors whom he saw as the most in need.

This suburban church possessed an unrelenting response of abundant, boundless love in the midst of challenge. The willingness to remain open when someone broke into their space, bearing a response that illustrated the wideness of God’s mercy, is the same kind of upending love that we are called to reflect in our own lives. Obedience to Jesus Christ shows our willingness to get out of our own way, letting go of what we believe to be possible, right, or lawful, for a reality that God knows to be true.

For Reflection and Discussion:

While your congregation may not have experienced the trauma of a break-in, what experiences have you had together that have led you to look at your life in ministry together in a transformative way? What are some ways that you can move forward in transformation together?