When I was in seminary and Abby came along, we were lucky enough to find a wonderful woman who ran her home daycare of just a few children. Her house was only a couple of blocks from the seminary and she encouraged me to stop by in between classes if I was missing my little one. It seemed like a perfect situation.
The house had a fenced yard and an incredible space she had dedicated as a playroom for the children she watched. It was a big sunken living room filled with books, puzzles, toys, dress up clothes, art supplies, riding toys and even climbing equipment. The children loved this space because it was theirs.
Then the woman, in an effort to expand her business, decided to spruce up the space in order to attract and impress future clients. She renovated the space with new carpeting, paint, decorative trim, wainscoting, new windows, and French doors. When it was done, it was beautiful.
However, the problem was when all renovations were complete; she became worried the kids might spill something on the carpet or ruin the walls. Her fears were reflected in how things changed in regards to the children and the room after the renovation.
She first instituted a no eating and drinking rule. Then she moved the riding toys, climbing equipment and art supplies out the room. Eventually she locked the French doors while the kids were at the house and did not allow them into the space that was once their playroom.
Each week she would spend a good deal of time cleaning the hand prints and face prints of the children who would press their faces against the glass in longing, as they gazed into a room in which they were not allowed to enter.
Her fear of losing the newness and freshness of the room changed the intention and use of the room.
It became hers not theirs.
She shut out those for whom it was originally designed.
Sometimes, I wonder if we do that in our churches...in our faith communities. I believe we have been blessed with wonderful spaces for the purpose of honoring and glorifying God. I believe God's design for our churches is that our sacred spaces are not meant to belong to us, but rather to belong to God and all of God's beloved children.
Yet, too often, we think of these sacred spaces as ours. As a result, we believe we should have the choice of who can and should enter into these spaces. We create rules and barriers to keep some people in and others out.
We renovate our spaces...our physical, mental and spiritual spaces...in ways that lock out those for whom these spaces, our churches, were designed for, which is ALL of God's children. We also spend a great deal of time trying to cover up and ignore the fact there are many of God's beloved children who stand on the outside looking in only waiting and hoping to be invited in.
Yet, imagine the joy of the Lord if we were to open the doors wide to all. Imagine the joy, the playfulness, the sacredness and the beauty that could exist in the spaces we would reclaim not as ours but God's. I challenge you to imagine it and embrace it, for I believe this is what it means to be the Church of Jesus Christ.