Monday, August 07, 2006

Leaky Roof... an Addendum

I'd like to comment on something I find really cool about the previous post. I've done a lot of teaching on worship over the past 20+ years. One of the points I have made has to do with the Biblical understanding of the word "praise".

Years ago, Hebrew professor Dr. Ron Allen taught me something that's found in his book "Praise: A Matter of Life and Breath". To teach the point he made, I've told a story... a parable - if you will.

There was a man (I usually tell the story as if it happened to me) who had a leaky roof. It was really bad. Every night when it rained, he wondered where the water would come in to his house that night.

One day, a friend found out that his roof was leaking. He came over to help patch the roof and found that the roof was beyond repair, and would need to be replaced. But the man didn't have enough money to pay for a new roof. This friend said, "let me see what I can do."

A few days later, the friend showed up with tools, materials, and workers to put a new roof on the house. They worked hard; and in a week's time, they had a new roof on the house.

Now, as you can imagine, the man with the leaky roof is overwhelmed with gratitude for this act of kindness. He didn't ask them to do it; he didn't even tell them I needed it; but they came and gave and worked because they loved him.

In our culture, when it was all finished, I would shake their hands and say "thank you". However, if I lived in Hebrew culture during Bible times, I wouldn't say that. You see, the concept of "thank you" didn't exist. Instead, my response would be to shake their hand and say to them "I will tell your name." And then I would go around the community and brag on the kindness of those who had helped me. I might say "Do you know Brad?... You don't? Well, let me tell you about him. See he heard that my roof was leaking and he talked with Aser and they rounded up some guys and materials..." and I proceed to tell the story.

Biblical praise is the "I will tell your name." It's bragging on God for who He is and what He's done, and what He will do in the future.

So, I just think it's pretty amazing that after 20 years of using that illustration, I'm now living it.

Thanks God... I'm gonna tell your name.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Getting My Feet Washed... On My Roof

A couple weeks ago, we studied John 13. That's the story of when Jesus washes the disciple's feet. As you may remember - Jesus was about to die; He was in the "upper room" with His disciple's for the "last supper"; and in an act of profound servanthood, He washes the dirt (dust, donkey doo, and cow crap) off of their feet. The disciples were humiliated at being served by their Lord, but Jesus said "...unless I wash you, you have no part with me". Jesus ends the story by telling the disciples that they should do the same for each other.

Some churches have even initiated foot-washing services in an attempt to obey this command. However, as we looked at the story, we discovered that the message was really about serving each other, not about washing feet. We talked about several different ways we can serve each other.

We were challenged to consider a ministry of...
  • Presence - Just being there
  • Going to marginal places - Nursing homes, Homeless shelters, etc.
  • Availability - Willingness to be interrupted in our busy schedules
  • Surrender - Giving up rights, money, things
  • Anonymity - Doing, without expecting acknowledgement
  • Guarding - Protecting each other's reputations
  • Receiving - Yes, receiving help from others can be a form of service
Well, this past week, I got my feet washed up on my roof. A group of guys from my church knew that my roof was in disrepair. They also knew that I did not have the funds to pay for a new roof. So, a couple of them decided to get a crew together and take care of it. They took care of materials, labor, food for the crew, everything.

When I was first approached, I really struggled with it. It was humbling to be in a position to receive help from others. In fact I took a couple weeks to think about it before I said "okay". When I finally did respond, I said "my pride says 'no', but my theology says 'yes'". See, I was like Peter in the foot-washing story. Peter said to Jesus "No, Lord! You'll never wash my feet!" He was too proud. So was I.

But my pride nearly kept me from getting a huge blessing. Of course, the roof was a huge blessing. But even better than that, was the sense of community and camaraderie that we all got to experience. I got to hear guy's stories about how they came to faith in Jesus. I got to work along side some 13 year olds who did a man's share of work each day, and came back for more the next day. I got to "know" some guys that were just faces before. Now I have relationship with them. Huge.

There's a lot of talk these days about how a big church can't have community. I just want to say that's bunk. Maybe it takes more intentionality. Maybe it's harder to pull off. But Brad, Aser, Chris, Cyrus, Ross, Ross Jr., Scott, Bobby, Erik, Richard, Seth, JR, Bob, Buddy, Ted, Kelly, James, Wayne, Dave, David, Ken, Eric, Mike, Alex, Paul, Rob, Ron, Kimberly, Shirley, Chick, Cheryl, Sarah, Michelle, Emily, and Elyse all showed me that community does still exist. The old fashioned "barn-raising" is still possible.

At the very end of the story of the foot-washing is this statement "I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master. Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them. You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing." If that statement is true (and I believe it is) then not only have I been blessed by this roof project, but all of you who served will be too. God's cool that way, huh?