Normally on a Sunday or Monday, I use this blog to provide a synopsis of the sermon delivered at Cassidy UMC. The last several days have been odd, however, and I’m in a reflective mood.
As you can see from the previous posting in this blog, we had some plumbing problems develop late Friday. The clogged septic system could not be fixed on Saturday, so our normal worship schedule was basically canceled—it’s hard to have 170 people or so in a building where you cannot flush toilets or run water. (Apparently the problem has been repaired; as I write this, I can hear the septic pump truck driving away. I also just heard multiple flushes down the hallway, and a man cry out, “Boy, they’re flowing now!”)
This sudden infrastructure problem was in many ways a major letdown, considering what a wonderful week we had experienced otherwise. Dozens of volunteers helped put on a great Vacation Bible School Monday through Friday. We had far more children than we had expected show up (76 on our peak evening), to the point that additional supplies had to be procured mid-week.
And more importantly, this VBS was full of good, holy teaching. We used the Babylon Holy Land Adventure materials this year, and the children spent the week learning the story of Daniel living in exile. The Cassidy folks basically turned the church building and grounds into a miniature version of ancient Babylon, including Daniel’s room and a marketplace. An important Bible story really came to life for a few days in our church.
The children experienced the importance of worshiping and trusting the One True God. They learned to let go of their fears, and they learned to see God as their savior in difficult times, a message that will help them better understand Jesus as Savior for all time. The lessons, played out in drama and ongoing conversations with “Babylonians” in the marketplace, became very real for many of these kids. (At one point, the sound of lions roaring as Daniel was led away became scary enough that we had to show some of the younger children it was a recording.)
By the time of our closing VBS program on Friday, I was talking with parents who came up to me to ask about becoming involved at Cassidy UMC, saying they had no church home. All pastors love having those conversations. And of course, it was about an hour after the last of these conversations that the floor drains began to bubble up whenever a sink or toilet emptied.
It didn’t take me long to make a connection between our clogged main drain and the key point I was planning to preach Sunday. I had spent all week in the Gospel lectionary text, Mark 4:35-41, the story of Jesus stilling the storm. Ironically, I had even entitled the sermon “Swamped.”
The key point: The evil forces that remain in this world mess with us, particularly when Christ’s kingdom is expanding in some dramatic way. The point is fairly obvious in the story, if you read carefully. When Jesus calms the storm, he uses exorcism-type language, rebuking the wind and commanding the sea to be still. This fits our big-picture understanding of a world tainted by sin; we know from Scripture that all of creation is broken and susceptible to the influence of evil. Only Christ, through his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection, is overcoming and will fully overcome the powers and principalities of this world.
This lesson caused me to ask myself a question: Is Satan messing with Cassidy’s plumbing? As so-called modern, enlightened people, most of us find such an idea medieval. And as a former p.r. guy for a utility company, I’ll be the first to admit that infrastructure tends to collapse during a peak usage event—in this case, more than 100 people in the church on a nightly basis for five days.
If Satan were trying to interfere, however, the timing couldn’t be better. Lots of excitement about what just happened in VBS? Well, shut them down for a Sunday and see how long that excitement lasts.
That’s why I’m proud of the 33 folks who turned out to worship in the front parking lot Sunday. It was simple worship, and surprisingly pleasant in the shade.
Some of us also went visiting in Cassidy’s neighborhoods afterward, talking with folks we found at home during the traditional church hour. We didn’t use our building Sunday, but we took a taste of church to people who perhaps needed to know God was thinking of them. I in particular treasure the 10 minutes one of our youth and I were able to spend with a lady in need of prayer, a lady who invited us into her home.
The work of the kingdom continued, even if only in a small way. And if Satan wants to hang out in our septic tank, it’s an appropriate place for him to be.