Saturday, February 05, 2011

Frozen Pulpits

Today's Reading: Isaiah 40:9 NIV
9 You, who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You, who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!"

Good morning!

The blizzard in Northern Missouri dumped two feet of fresh snow before it traveled north and east. While viewing some of the pictures posted on Facebook, I smiled with empathy for my pastors and friends who live in that area and are still trying to dig out. One pastor had to literally build a wall of snow just so folks could access the stairs to enter the sanctuary for Sunday worship. I suggested he build a large ice pulpit in the front of the church and he thought maybe he could carve out the pews as well! I've never seen so much snow fall in one place.

Snow in general seems to diminish weekend worship attendance during the winter months. It is frustrating from the pastor's standpoint. They really want their congregants to be safe and use good judgment when coming out into the winter weather; yet, they really hope everyone will come to worship no matter what the weather! It is not right to sleep in and neglect our worship time with the Lord, simply because of a nasty forecast. Real worship can and does happen every day, and especially in inclement weather!

John Wesley, Methodism's founder, spent much time agonizing over frozen pulpits in England. He was ordained in the Anglican ministry, where field preaching was banned among clergy. During his ministry in the mid-1700s, only certain classes of people were allowed inside the church for worship each week. The extreme poor, and working class, those who were labeled "street scum" were turned away from Christ's message of salvation. Wesley realized that Christ's commission must be carried out no matter the personal cost. God's redeeming, saving love is not just for some, but for all people, everywhere! His intinerent preaching took him way outside the walls of churches, into fields and graveyards, and anywhere folks were willing to gather to hear the Word of God. People were starving to hear about Jesus, to know that He loves them and wants to be in a real and personal relationship with them right now. When the Bishop of Bristol (Wesley's boss) threatened to expel Wesley from all Anglican pulpits, he simply replied, "The world is my parish."

Almost three hundred years later, I have to wonder how many of our pulpits remain stoic and frozen, excluding some folks while embracing others. Shouldn't our churches be havens of refuge for the least, the last and the lost? This is a place to learn about our Lord's teachings, the wages of sin, and the penalty Christ paid for our salvation. Wouldn't it be awesome if our church buildings were filled to overflow every weekend with friends and neighbors from all walks of life who live in our cities? Why are we not opening our doors in this winter weather to house the homeless in our worship centers, offering warm blankets, cots and hot food to families in crisis? Are our pulpits frozen so hard they cannot melt with the warmth of God's amazing grace for all?

The prophet Isaiah spoke God's holy Word to the people. His Word must be proclaimed not just behind our pulpits; it must be taken outside the walls, even in this cold snowy winter. We need not be afraid when the Lord Jesus Christ sends us to shout on top of the mountain, "Here is your God!"

It is high time for a spiritual thaw.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding
Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

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