It’s hard to walk back into situations where you’ve recently been wounded. As you sit and try not to bleed the gaping wound still oozes–and the one who cut you still looks you in the eye–without realizing they are still holding the knife. The blade still glistens with your own red liquid. You are numbed to fear and feeling. And the worst part is–this place is supposed to be safe. The seat in which you are sitting is not supposed to be an electric chair; but every word spoken seems harsh enough to jolt your entire being and stop your heart in the same second.
Ah, yes, the church pew. How awful you can be.
Studies–numerous studies–have shown the top three opinions people have about “Christians.”
No wonder we build such large buildings–it gives people so many places to hide all their crap on Sunday mornings. We pile our baggage up in the Sunday School rooms, youth centers, nursery, and the Hospitality hall and we call it “Church activities”–but what we are really doing is hiding. In fact, when some of us go to “Church” we hide so much of ourselves we stack boxes so tall we can’t find Jesus- let alone room for any outsiders to fit in.
Some of us feel like we don’t belong in the Church–and far too many of us have been hurt by people claiming to follow the Prince of Peace. We come expecting sanctuary and liberation–but in the same sanctuary we find a pair of shackles we must give in to.
Leaving isn’t always any better. If we take our dreams to the “outside world” where the sunlight still hits the streets–Jesus talk melts before it can hit the ground. Fair trade is a Hippie movement, not reconciliation of consumer and producer. Conservation and even the word “green” have become fashion labels, red-hot terms for the buyer-market rather than a mandate from the Creator to care for the Garden.
We don’t fit in. Our dreams are bigger than the words on the street but we can’t seem to really fit in a ‘sinner-filled’ building of worship.
Greg Valerio, a fair trade jeweler, lays it out like this, “I lived in that prophetic squeeze of not being understood by those in the world or those in religious institutions.” So many of us have heard the phrase “to bear fruit” (for Jesus…usually). It is said that a tree that does not bear good fruit will be burned…so we do all we can to produce…produce. And honestly, for some trees I think that is their full job. To grow strong, like an olive tree flourishing near water–and bear fruit.
But the grape, on the other hand, is usually not finished at this step. A vine may produce bunches of grapes–but they are not enough as is. They must be squeezed.
Inside each plump, thin membrane swirls a fortitude of juice. The juice is what the owner of the vineyard is after–juice for wine. Now, I’m not an expert at wine, but I know the grapes must be washed, squeezed, rid of impurities, mixed and stored in the most special of ways–to be enjoyed later.
A banana provides nutrients right off the tree. A grape must be squeezed for its juice.
Too many people stand in the door-ways of cross-filled buildings pointing fingers at those on the outsides. Likewise, too many people stand picketing outside these buildings pointing fingers (or giving the finger) at those on the inside.
And wonderfully and beautifully enough a group of people is standing between the two groups-squeezed from both sides trying to bring reconciliation. It is not simply enough to bear fruit. They must be squeezed. Not unlike the one who was squeezed from both God and humanity to the point his own blood flowed. We drink his wine as a sign of reconciliation of God with humanity. Let us also work to drink this same wine as we celebrate the coming together of offender and victim–on both sides. Let us mend our wounds together.