Friday, September 30, 2011

Here's Looking at You

This week I was daydreaming about the wonderful city of Florence. Not the one in South Carolina. Florence, Italy, is a gem of a city, with so many interesting facets. It is the home of Renaissance art.

One afternoon while in Florence I enjoyed visiting the Galleria degli Uffizi, a huge museum with an overwhelming collection of magnificent Renaissance art. One piece by Jacopo Pontormo pictured at left shows the risen Lord breaking bread with the disciples in Emmaus. It is titled, “Supper at Emmaus.” You can see the eye of God painted above Christ’s head, which art historians say was a later addition. I have no clue why someone would change this masterpiece, but there it is.

The symbol of the eye of God is an interesting one. The eye symbolizes the omniscience and omnipresence of God, who watches over all things. It is also associated with the Trinity (hence the triangle shape around the eye).

I wonder if the artist who doctored the painting with the eye of God was depicting a belief unique to the Christian faith? It’s hard to comprehend the paradox of a God who is beyond our comprehension and full knowledge, and yet came to us in Jesus Christ and is with us even now through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I like the thought that God keeps his eye on us, just as he does the sparrow. I take comfort in thinking that he can’t take his eyes off of us, because he loves us so much. Hope to see you this Sunday as we break bread together with our brothers and sisters around the world.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Take a Hike

My days are probably a lot like yours in many ways—I sit at a desk, reading and responding to emails and phone calls. Sometimes I have meetings with staff and church members. I put out the most urgent of the fires that flare up, and let others just burn to a crisp. Where you might prepare a report I’m working on a sermon. Where you meet around the water cooler I have counseling sessions. Where you might call on a client I go visit the hospitals. Much of my time is driven by deadlines, holy interruptions, and my inbox. I’m sure you can relate.

Yes, there’s a “dailyness” to most of our days. Sometimes, in our routines we can forget the reasons why we’re doing what we do. So yesterday afternoon around two o’clock I broke away from the desk and decided to take a walk across our church campus.  I had heard the construction team was starting to install the roof trusses on the Sardis House, and wanted to see for myself. Catherine and Jessica were in their offices nearby, so I invited them to join me. We grabbed our keys and headed down the hall.

When we got down to Richard’s office we found Richard, Jason, and Alice, who were unpacking and testing out a set of drums that Richard has ordered for Collide, a Bible study and jam session program that he and Catherine have cooked up for the middle schoolers on Wednesday nights. I don’t know if you can picture Alice Johnson beating time on a drum, but let me tell you, she’s got rhythm.

Before you know it, there were six of us heading out the door of the administration building. I felt like a papa duck leading my gaggle of ducklings. We saw Eleanor Beaugher, who I must say, looked a little startled to have this parade of church staff approaching her on the walkway by the Sanctuary. We caught up to Renda walking to her office, and she got swept up in the procession too. Somewhere along the line, almost out of nowhere, Jane joined the parade.

want to see pictures of the Sardis House
being built? Click here.
So then there were eight of us, all headed through the Education Hall and out the back door, just in time to see a giant crane lifting one of the massive wooden trusses into position.
It’s amazing to see this structure rise up where before there was just grass and some trees. I can’t wait for the not too distant day when you will be able to walk inside this new building and we’ll all be able to expand our ministry to our homeless neighbors, to clients of the Presbyterian Samaritan Counseling Center, and to our own families.

Our little parade headed back to the office. We were right at the cloister garden when we saw a ladder leaning against a wall, and high above our heads, a figure scaling the side of the bell tower.

here's George with his climbing gear.
Of course we had to investigate—wouldn’t you do the same? It was George Riggsbee, all geared up with a climbing harness and carabiners and carrying a high powered blower. Apparently every so often he does this—climbs up what looks like at least 75 feet, scaling hand over hand to the top of the bell tower using first his ladder and then the rebar posts embedded in the walls of the tower (don’t worry, George is an experienced climber and is using proper safety gear). He goes up there with his blower and sometimes a shop vac to dislodge all the flakes of iron rust that accumulate, and eventually fall on top of the head and shoulders of the usher ringing the bell on Sunday mornings. George said that one time his shop vac was so heavy with the accumulated iron flakes that he had to have help to lift it into his truck afterward.

It is humbling to realize that, while I’m busy in my own little world, the mission of our Sardis family is happening all around in ways that are sometimes big and explosive, and sometimes quiet and easy to miss. In a simple walk across our campus, on any day of the week, everywhere you look you practically trip over members at work being the hands and feet of Christ.

It’s easy to spot huge trusses being lifted by a giant crane. It’s another thing to spot a guy 75 feet up in the bell tower. So often we miss all the little things that make Sardis such a special place. Even now as I write this, there’s probably someone, maybe it’s you, who is quietly making a difference in this place we all love. God bless you, and thank you, to all you Sardis saints.

No pressure George, but I hope the bell works on Sunday!