Most of us probably do not keep our homes in immaculate condition seven days a week. If you’re like me, picking up all of the clutter, recycling junk mail, and having every dish washed and put away isn’t always a priority. It becomes a priority if someone calls and says they’re on their way over. A long list of tasks I had convinced myself I didn’t have time to do are suddenly, almost miraculously accomplished within an hour. This is why Eugene Peterson writes, “Entering a person’s house unexpectedly, we are sometimes met with a barrage of apologies.”
I’ve encountered those apologies many times – often for mounds of laundry waiting to be folded, sometimes for a kitchen table that has to be cleared of the stuff of daily life before anyone can sit down to eat. If you were to visit my house unannounced today, I would feel compelled to apologize for the dirty dishes in the sink. But the explanation for this is not that so many of us are slobs. Our houses get messy, because we live in them.
Our often-messy, lived-in houses have something important to teach us about what it means to be the church together. Just like we wouldn’t expect a home to be spotless at any given moment we might drop in, we shouldn’t expect everything in the life of a congregation to be neat and ordered and never messy. Peterson says churches “are living rooms, and if the persons living in them are sinners, there are going to be clothes scattered about, handprints on the woodwork, and mud on the carpet.”
It always seems a little silly to me when people apologize for the appearance of their homes. Our homes are the center of our lives, and life is messy. It’s probably just as silly to think churches ought to meet whatever standard of perfection we have in our minds for them. If a congregation was never messy in any way, we would be right to wonder if anyone really lived there.
– Ryan Bailey, director of faith formation