Someone Janet and I know well told us recently that the reputation of Otley Parish Church has travelled far and wide – as far as Manchester anyway. Apparently a woman visited our Church and came away enthused. She couldn’t wait to get back to her Church and tell them all about it.
So what do you think it might have been that so moved her? It was our dishwasher! Apparently she returned to her Church with a mission to get one like ours. We’ve become known as the Church with the dishwasher.
I suppose it could have been worse…
It’s not easy to know what impression we, as a Church, make on outsiders or visitors – what we look like or are remembered for. In this context, one of our greatest resources is the people who’ve recently joined the Church or started coming along to Sunday worship or another regular activity. They see things that we can no longer see, notice things we don’t. We do well to encourage them to tell us what we look like, to help us look in the mirror.
Why should we worry about what we look like to the community at large? I trust we all know the answer to that. As Archbishop William Temple famously said – the Church is the only organisation which exists for non-members. We want people to join us in following Jesus, and so it’s important to know what helps and what hinders that happening.
Especially in these weeks following Easter, we reflect on the Church as a gathering of people in the presence of the risen Lord Jesus. We say each time we gather formally in worship:
The Lord is here.
His Spirit is with us.
So ultimately it’s not about us but about the God who brings us together. God as we know him in Jesus.
So the purpose of our dishwashers and our reordering, our welcoming and our praying, our worship and our service of the wider community is to be here for Jesus, reflecting his character, promoting his priorities, telling his story and nurturing new disciples. This is what it is to be the body of Christ.
So what should we look like to outsiders? “Like Jesus” must be the answer. We can only look like Jesus by being like him. Each of us in our own unique way, in our own unique set of circumstances, and (especially) all of us together as a Church.
The resurrection of Jesus enables him to be at the centre of our worship, our lives and our community today, moulding us into his likeness through the power of his Spirit.
Being like Jesus will not always win us friends – like him we will often be outspoken and challenging. We will hear and echo his call to love beyond the natural limits of love, to live for the common good, to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry and bring good news to the poor.
It’s all rather more demanding than having an effective dishwasher! But infinitely more life-giving.