My mind is fixed on a question facing my Lighthouse family. It’s a tough question. For some months now we have been shuttling men and women from Centre to Celebrate Recovery (CR) and Sunday morning worship. Centre is a transitional housing unit between jail or prison and our community. It is incarceration with a growing freedom to get life back on track. On Thursday evenings we could have as many as 30-40 people. On Sundays 20-30. In many ways our new friends have brought change to the Lighthouse family.
Some of our new friends see Lighthouse as an opportunity to grow spiritually and to find a “life community” of support, acceptance and fellowship. For others, it’s a night or morning out of Centre. Some participate fully. Many are in and out, up and down; and frankly a little distracting to others. There are those who hang on the fringe. They stay just outside of the sanctuary. It’s all foreign to them. A little awkward. Uncomfortable.
I meet some who have never been to church before. For many they have, but long ago. Sometimes their last experiences in church were not so good. Often, I suspect, the “light” is unfamiliar and a little blinding when you have been traveling in “darkness” for a while. I can tell they aren’t used to being welcomed. No judgement is weird to those who have stood before judges and jailers. I’ve wondered how Jesus would engage and interact at the Lighthouse on Thursday night or Sunday morning? Would He sit in the sanctuary or be on a couch in the entryway? Would he sit to respectfully hear the end of my message or get up with others when they sneak out early for a smoke?
It’s a tough thing. Part of getting life back on track is learning things like respect, manners and proper behavior in a community of others. Part of ministering in the trenches and on the front lines of the mission field is to learn to be uncomfortable and to take the time to come alongside others and teach them. I always tell people, if you’re not comfortable with “messy,” Lighthouse may not be the place for you.
I’ve begun to think about Jesus’ parable of the sower in different ways. You remember. “A farmer went out to plant some seed.” (Mark 4:3 and following). Some fell on a path, some on shallow soil and rocks, some amongst thorns and finally some on good soil. Sowing seed itself, I have come to understand, can be messy. Jesus says, “keep sowing! Just keep sowing!!! I will take care of the rest.”
It takes a special people and a special community to sow in the darkness and the messes of life. I think the Lighthouse, this faith community experiment I started and I love is such a place.
If you are from Centre and are reading this, thank you for stretching and challenging us. Be patient with us. There are few roadmaps for this territory. We are moving forward by faith.
If the Lighthouse is your family, thank you for stretching and striving to love people like Jesus did. It gives me a sense of awe and wonder for His amazing grace. “God, how did You ever put up with me in my darkness and in my messes of life?”
So the sower? (I love that sentence!) So the sower, he just keeps sowing seed. God makes it grow. That’s His business. The hope and the promise? If you keep sowing, some will grow and “produce a crop thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted.” Wow. “Then Jesus said, ‘Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.'” (Mark 4:9 NLT).
See you at the Lighthouse,