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The Church without Christ

Adapted from a very short story...

     There was once a church without Christ.
      It was not a particularly wicked church.  It was not a church of militant agnostics raising angry hands against God.  It was not a church that had abandoned Christian truth for distorted heresies.  It was not even an unhappy church.  Indeed, it was a happy church filled with people who knew that there was a God in heaven and that Jesus was His one and only Son.  But, as I already noted, it was a church without Christ.

      He wasn’t really that far away.  He just wasn’t in church on Sunday.  He hadn’t been for a long time.  But, it wasn’t for lack of effort.
      Also, some mighty peculiar things had been happening lately.  Take last week, for example.  Right after the pastor got a big round of applause for pointing out they were simply the finest group of amazing Christians he had ever seen, one of the deacons could have sworn he heard someone wanting to be let in through the side door into the sanctuary.  It was odd, because no one used that door any more.  And, as he told it later, everyone was having such a good time in worship he decided going over and trying to open that door would have ruined the moment.  Besides, none of the outside doors were locked on Sunday.  If anyone wanted to come to church, they were perfectly capable of opening a door for themselves.
      Well, pretty much the same thing happened again this Sunday.  The elders were on their way up for Communion and offering, when one of the women could have sworn she heard what sounded just like someone softly knocking on the back door of the sanctuary.  She wasn't sure, at first.  Then, when she noticed several other people turning and glancing back toward the doors, she knew it wasn't just her imagination.  But, by then, the elder had started the Communion prayer.  Anyway, the back doors into the sanctuary didn’t have locks or even latches.  All you had to do was pull them open.   Any child could do it.  She was pretty sure she could still hear it.  In fact, she almost got up once to check.  But, she saw the deacons had starting passing out the the bread and wine.  It wouldn't be right to get up and make a scene.  
      The rest of the service went well, as usual.  They weren’t the only church around. But, as they all knew, they were the most dynamic.  Some of their members had, fact, come to them from some of the little small town churches.  You know the kind.  Little churches where the preacher was boring and it would have been kind to call the facilities Spartan.  The contrast with the well-designed room full of the smiling people who genuinely looked forward to meeting each week could not have been more apparent.
      When they’d finished the singing and the sermon and the little snack of bread and wine it was time to leave.  Lots of hand-shaking and promises to get together at some good restaurants for lunch that week could be heard as the families shuffled out of the building on their way home.
      It was a little girl of about eight who first noticed the homeless man sitting dejectedly in the grass under one of the nice shade trees near the street.  His shabby clothes and beard made him stand out.  Hardly any man around town had even a hint of a beard.  The man was looking at them as they came out of the building.  It didn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to put two and two together.  That drifter must have been the source of the knocking during worship.  He must have been looking for a handout.  Or, more likely, he smelled the fresh baked bread and wanted in on the free food.  
      They had thought the poor guy was hungry.  But then, they found out real quick he was sick.  Most people politely turned away as the man suddenly leaned over toward one side and threw up on the grass.  At that point, everyone pretended not to have seen and casually went back to visiting and heading home.
      Jesus sat back up, resting the back of his head against the old oak tree, watching as the people leaving church went back to happily visiting with one another.
      He had not felt well all morning.  It was their fault.  The church.  The church without Christ.  And so, every week, right on schedule, just when they thought they were celebrating Communion, He wasn’t there.  What they thought was the Lord's Supper was just snack time for grown-ups.  A little bread and wine to tide them over till lunch.  It would almost have been funny if it wasn’t so sad.
      “You keep saying to yourselves,” He whispered out loud, “That you’re a great church.  You’ve got everything a church could want.  The best clothes. The best food. There’s nothing you really need.  If you only knew...”
      Jesus could see the real world and it didn’t always look like the world those church people saw.  For one thing, Jesus could see the unseen angels and the angry shadowed demons that lurked near the minds of the weak.   And, what the church people saw as a shabbily dressed homeless man was really closer to one unto the Son of Man, who stood with eyes that burned like fire and a face that shined like the bright noonday sun. 
      But, perhaps what was mostly on His mind was the church people.  He did not see them as they saw themselves.  What Jesus saw leaving church that morning was a church full of emaciated half-naked dying wretches that hardly looked human.  Many were blind.  Some could hardly walk.  All of them had great gaping unhealed wounds.
      “If you only knew,” He sadly said to Himself.  “I have brought new clothes and ointments and new eyes and new ears and, most of all, new hearts.”
      It was a tragedy that almost broke His heart each time he came here.  They thought things were going great.  They thought they were a great church.  And, saddest of all, they thought they celebrated Communion every Sunday.  But, all the while, they were a church of starving beggars who only passed a little bread and wine as a pathetic snack between breakfast and lunch.
      Well, there was always next week.  He’d be back.  And, he’d try knocking on the doors once again.  He never pulled the door open himself.  He knew they weren’t locked.  He just had this rule about never opening doors.  So, week after week, He’d just keep knocking and waiting.  One of these days, maybe First Christian in Laodicea would let Christ back into their church.  And, then, finally, on that Sunday, the little snack would be transformed into a sharing in His blood and in His body.  Then, finally, the church at Laodicea would no longer be the church without Christ.

      I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. 

Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking
if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, 
I will come in to him and eat with him, 
and he with me. 

Revelation 3:15-19

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