OVER-RIPE AND STALE

WORDS FROM W.W. December 30, 2009

I’m about 36,000 feet in the air as I write this on a delayed extra-warm United Airlines flight filled with over-tired pre-schoolers and grumpy parents. Interestingly enough I’ve been reading Leonard Sweet’s book The Gospel According to Starbucks and just read some interesting thoughts that he has about the Revelation 3 passage that includes a warning to the church about lukewarmness (Revelation 3:16). In Sweet’s bible he has written a paraphrase that has God saying “Your church is overripe and stale. It makes me want to barf” He has drawn a picture of an airline’s barf bag above his words.
As is often the case, Leonard Sweet makes me ponder and create out of my ponderings. As another year ends and a new one is being birthed it makes me contemplate about my walk with the Lord, and, more on point with the Revelation 3 passage, it makes me think about the walk of the church. What is overripe and stale? Where does the fresh fruit of the Spirit need to emerge?
The church, which is the prime place for freshness to surface and creativity to be encouraged, is sometimes void of such. Overripe and stale may seem harsh to hear, but it is not a stretch from the scripture. If we had a choice between “what we’ve always done” and what would be innovative and step towards the outer edge of our comfort zone what would we choose?
I’m not saying “do something different just to be different.” I’m saying if the spirit of God is pulling us towards the possibility of drawing outside the lines, would the first-grade teacher in each one of us make us curl back in a sort of traditional spiritual compliance?
There’s probably not a coincidence in the fact that our refrigerator is piled with food right now from the usual “Christmas overload” experience. It happens every year. Christmas Day has the counters filled with food and possibilities. December 26 has the refrigerator filled with the “not yets”. The aromas and mouth watering experiences of Christmas Day are replaced by grumpy duty the day after each time the frig door opens. Gourmet mashed potatoes become like tasteless hospital food when they’ve been warmed up for the fourth dinner in a row.
Stale does not just describe week old bread. It could also be described as a quest in search of mediocrity, the search for insignificance.
Think about it. What in our spiritual lives, personally and corporately, do we pursue in search of finding mediocrity.
Has our reading of scripture de-mystified it? Have we heard the story before, and now when we hear it our expectancy level is like opening the door of the refrigerator and looking at all the Tupperware containers?
Has prayer become as uneventful as the container of milk that has today’s expiration date on it? We can’t decide whether to use it or let it sit there for another day?
Has the ministry of the church taken a backseat to church business? Has old life made the idea of “new life” seem too weird? Do we desire to raise up our children in the Lord…as long as they end up looking like us?
What exactly is overripe and stale? If you took a survey of your congregation this Sunday what would the answers look like? If a similar survey was done asking the community what they see is fresh about the church and what is stale, would they get similar responses?
A new year is always similar to how my pants fit- uncomfortably tight with great expectancy. The expectancy is demonstrated by the urgency to make some changes (Loosening the belt is a cop-out!), but also an eagerness to see what the new holds.
May the New Year be filled with a delightful dance with the Lord in the midst of on-going fresh tastes of His Spirit!

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One Comment on “OVER-RIPE AND STALE”

  1. Laura Patterson Says:

    Wow, just what I needed to hear! In my middle school sunday school class I am teaching on the end times, and this reminds me that I (and they) need to be on fire for God and not just lukewarm! This has inspired me to look at the Word of God with fresh expecting eyes and ears and not just as leftovers that I have heard a hundred times.


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