You can’t go to Las Vegas without someone making this joke. I don’t care if you’re going on a zen retreat or a business conference, someone is gonna find out your travel plans and with a wink and a nudge say, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
In the same way, after you get home and you happen to mention that you were just in Vegas, someone inevitably gives that same wink and a nudge and says, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, eh?”
I’m waiting for the day when I mention I was in church to someone I’ve just bumped into at the grocery store or at the bar or wherever and they respond with the same wink and a nudge, “What happens in church stays in church, eh?”
Before you freak out, that particular advertising campaign began when Vegas was trying to market a unique experience where you could eat things you’d never get to eat and see things you wouldn’t normally see. You could be someone that the rest of the world won’t let you be. I don’t want that place to be off in the desert in the middle of America. I want it to be on every street corner where a steeple reaches toward the sky.
I began ministry with my whole head and my heart believing that this is what it is all about. The bold words from the prophet Isaiah on Jesus’s lips in Luke 4:14-21 were words that I passionately typed into my ordination paper. YES! The Spirit of the Lord is upon all of us!
But as I tried to write my sermon a few weeks ago about Jesus unrolling that scroll and proclaiming this truth, I couldn’t quite shake this feeling that nothing we do in church matters. It’s not Vegas, it’s just church. Just another meeting or another blessing. Ho hum.
I know it’s not just me. It’s something I have heard from pastors and members—especially those who are not at those big churches, or what we might call “tall steeples,” with their…
Well, I admit that I’m not exactly sure where the envy lies. It’s not the budget constraints or people power that leave me feeling like we’re not bringing good news to the poor or proclaiming release to the captives.
It doesn’t seem that we need a whole lot of people or money to that. We just need passion and vision and hope.
This is what was bugging me when I was trying to write my sermon. Not that we don’t have passion or vision or hope, but that we have somehow convinced ourselves that what happens in church should really stay in church. We don’t talk about it. It’s as if there is no good news to share when the people of God get together for some holy mischief. But, I refuse to believe it.
The church is not a place where nothing happens.
It’s a place where EVERYTHING happens. Babies are born and blessed. Couples marry. Young people see visions and the old dream dreams, and it happens every single week.
Every single time the body of Christ gets together, amazing stuff happens, but we don’t see it enough. We complain about how bad the news is.
We gripe about the media. But, how often are we sharing what happened in church?
It’s not Vegas. It’s better.
I need a whole bunch of people crazy enough to proclaim this faith with me to remind me that the Spirit of the Lord really is upon me as much as it is on them.
In fact, it’s in all of us and we’ve got work to do. That’s why we gather for worship and why we sit through committee meetings. That’s why we offer blessings on bicycles and puppies and screaming babies. It’s why we remind each other that we’re in this together and dare to dream that the year of the Lord’s favor is right now.
Tweet it. Talk about it. Don’t let it hide behind the locked doors of the church. Get that good news out right now!
The Rev. Elsa A. Peters is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who has served churches in New York City, Maine and Washington. She believes in the power of community, that poverty can end in our lifetime and that everyone needs a little more love. Follow along in her adventures in ministry at http://revelsaanderspeters.com. You can also find her on Facebook at /elsa.a.peters.