Monday, June 9, 2014

The Chairman (Or, The Cathedral's Victory)

A chairman closes the doors to the Generic First Small Southern Reformed Baptist Church of Bumpkinville and locks them for the last time; faced with debt they could not repay and a failing ministry, the congregation stayed until the last service. Heartfelt goodbyes were said as the community of twenty wondered where they would go next. In their heyday their ministry centered around going to college campuses and proclaiming Christ's justice and the necessity of repentance, and for these years their only source of encouragement was each other and Christ Himself.

The chairman sighed as he looked over the building, its roof sagging under the weight of neglect, its walls and windows cracked and unrepaired. The last ten years had been frightening, as the community watched their building's various accouterments languish away – initially a light fixture in a corner nobody went in, but then the water fountain broke, then the sound system. The summers had been especially brutal, as the air conditioning system simply couldn't keep pace with the swelter outside. Rev. Pastor IV followed with the same fire as his father, inspiring the congregants more and more. The chairman, the youngest on the board, came to the church because it was the only SSRBC in the area, but admitted to his family he felt out of place in the building. He had much greater views as to what the building could be used for, and how to reach out, but the other chairmen denied him due to his youth; he was the man who did the paper work. The congregants were thankful for his work, but never gave him deference.

A tear came to his eye when he recalled the time one of the congregants found freedom from alcoholism. She had been plagued by the issue for much of her life, and was finding it increasingly difficult to live normally. The pastor, a usually aggressive and boisterous man, walked into the room where the chairman was comforting her and sat down, telling her how Christ had given him freedom in his sexual addiction and drug dependency in the 70's. The chairman thought it sounded trite, rehearsed; he had heard a bit of the pastor's story before, and this followed what he said, but the chairman didn't think the man was helping. He was surprised, then, when the woman broke into tears, saying that the pastor said exactly what she needed to hear. She embraced the man, and they both cried into each other.

The chairman was perplexed; this one memory was the only happy moment he could remember as this church. Worship was a drag every week for him, every week for the last eight years since he stopped feeling anything in it. He kept thinking about that memory, and wondered what it was. He never heard God, aside from that one time when he came to Christ, but he needed to ask the question,

“Why did this place exist, God? These people lived for you, and you let this place languish away in disrepair. Their ministry was saving people left and right. So many people have been saved by what the pastor's said at services. Why am I happy this place is finally gone, and why do I feel so hollow?”

The silence dragged on for hours, as the chairman sat on the front steps to the decrepit building and the sun sank below the horizon. He had faded into sleep, and dreamt of the church. God was there, sitting next to him. The chairman balked and babbled, trying to find words to say. The Almighty chuckled and put a finger on his mouth, silencing him with a slight, comforting hush sound. He smiled and said, “It is time to repair the Church, my beloved.”

The Savior of the World then beckoned the chairman to follow Him around the building; its ancient stucco and brick hodgepodge showed its age, as cracks rent open long ago as vines pushed in and broke them apart further. Jesus began to grip each brick individually and strongly, His muscles pulling and shoving against His skin blatantly. Starting in the very corner, the Redeemer moved each brick into its original position, cleaning and remaking them to be as-new. This process went on as the days blew past in the dream, hours eating away. The chairman thought nothing would sound valid in the face of all the Glory shining before him, and had began mumbling the start of sentences, only to be cowed by his own uncertainty. El Shaddai looked up from His work, knowing what the chairman wanted to say, and said, “Speak, beloved; I am here for you, and rejoice in your dialogue.”

The chairman, still very uncertain, stammered, “God... gracious Savior... Why are you repairing this building? The congregants are all gone, the building's bankrupt and worthless. We've failed you.”

“A great question, but I know there is more you need to say, child. Speak your mind, heir,” the Almighty spoke.

“I don't wish to speak ill of You in front of You... but where were You when this church needed funds? Our ministry was bringing people to You, Heavenly Father, we loved you! And yet, this building was allowed by You to degrade and languish, the congregation was allowed by You to diminish and shrink, the ministry was allowed by YOU to become less and less potent, and die. We did Your work, why did You allow all this to die? We were bringing dozens to YOU! And now we're dead!”

“Child, there is much to learn. Here, help me in my work. I believe this part we both need to work on to usher it to completion.” The Almighty took the chairman's hands to the glass shards on the lowest window, and together the Savior and the chairman pushed the shards out into the center; the glass joined seamlessly, extra glass coming from the edges of the cracked pane. The chairman understood what he was doing, and got to repairing the lowest areas with this new found ability of his. He was lost in it, and soon He and the Father had completed all they could reach on the floor.

The chairman left and came back with a ladder, but dropped it when he saw Elohim knelt down on the wall... on the wall. The chairman walked up surprised and asked for an explanation. “I turned water to wine, walked on water, and defeated the grave. I am not made accountable to gravity, beloved,” He said, smiling as he returned to the work on the upper windows. The chairman joined Christ again in His work.

“There is something you need to know, child. I know you feel the ministry at your community was less effective than it needed to be, and I know why. You looked to the ministry for the saving and the ability, but you never looked to Me. Your church ends at these bricks and mortar, but I am here to expand your view. Come, that's the last brick. Very well done; let's go inside and deal with the rafters and insulation.”

Entering the church, the chairman was taken aback; it was in much worse disrepair than he left it, just the day before. “All will be made known in time, love,” Elyon explained, then picked up the parts of a pew that had fallen apart. The two helped each other piece together the sawdust and tattered hymnals as The Alpha and Omega continued:

“These pews don't seem to have been sat in, in quite a very long while. Look, this brochure is from 1993”, I AM said as He passed the brochure over. It struck the chairman deep when he looked it over; he remembered this one well. It was a very hot July day, and the pastor (then Rev. Pastor III) was inflamed in greater passion than the chairman had seen before in his life. But the chairman wasn't listening. He just didn't feel anything in the pastor's sermons anymore. But the church needed him desperately, so he stayed. He wrote on the brochure, “God be with this church”.

Tears came again to the man's eyes as he glared at the Creator and said, “Why? You torture me with this reminder of the failure of you and the church.”

“Child, you still don't see. Here, up on the rafters. Those lights need replacing. That church indeed was integral to my plan in this city, and it has run its course. But my work is not done. I'm not interested in the churches that you can build and house. I'm here for the global one, you understand that, I know you do.”

“Oh Maker, why then did you plan for this church to die? This city only has one. Now it has none,” the chairman said.

“You still don't understand, child. Your church is not dead. The people who went to the church you just closed may not come back, but they are saved because of my presence in that church. Nothing said in that building that effected someone else was spoken by humans, but by Me through them.”

“So You give the saving, and not the pastor. Yes, I understand. But why have I never thought of that before? It seems like I know this, and it's common knowledge, yet I’ve never put it into words,” the chairman said, pausing in his thoughts.

“It is a mystery My children deal with, that they have things set in their minds without thinking, and things of profound nature stay just below the surface. There we go, this looks like a proud temple again. Come child, let us go back outside. There is something you need to see.”

The chairman and the King of Kings went back outside,the chairman babbling about his recent epiphany. “So, the whole world is Your cathedral, and You are the only one who saves, and there's no ministry who has that ability, but it is You and You alone who carries that, and it's not me or the pastor who saves people, but it's You through he and I...” the chairman continued as he and the Divine Being ascended the church again. As they walked on the wall, the chairman didn't notice the unusually high wall until they were well past where the wall should end.

He stopped and looked down. The red, faded brick was now golden; a facade of such glory as he has never seen before. The chairman and the Almighty sat on the top of the facade as the chairman took in the rest of the building. Several kitchens, fully stocked; rooms for people to sleep in if they fall on hard times; a sanctuary of such regal stature as to elicit praise upon entering; all in the open air, for there was no threat of weather ruining what God had built. A mighty cathedral on a foundation wrought from the most glorious bedrock, pure marble laced with gems of every sort.

The chairman spent days remarking and praising the Lord for His work in him, then looked at the horizon and stuttered. “Lord, Great Almighty Jesus, My Liege... what are those?” he asked.

The things in question were shambling to and fro; a blown-out window here, a shattered door there, pine straw everywhere. They fluttered like rain-soaked leaves in a slight wind. Wails reverberated around the chairman's cathedral, bouncing off the gilded walls. It was a horror to see. The Almighty's face fell.

“My cathedral in you is now so luxurious, you do not recognize what you once were. These shambling masses are what I see My people as, every day. You and I started on My cathedral in you such a long time ago, but you stopped letting Me in. These people haven't called upon Me yet to build in them until they are complete; that is why I have come to you, My child – you have a mission. Your cathedral has been built, now it must shine. Here,” the Almighty produced a light from within His chest, “The bell tower on the north side. Light it, child.”

The chairman took the light, carrying it gingerly to the tower, placing it in its cradle. The Creator said, “It's a shame this is all a large metaphor, but I had to say it in a way you'll understand. I am with you, child. But know that it is My work in you that must be brought to completion in your life, not your work in others. I've given you this cathedral; come back to me and we will maintain it. Go, my child, and shine.”

the chairman awoke on the steps of the church; the same decrepit building as before. He didn't know what was to become of his life, but he knew he was no longer worried about its direction. He went back home, to his single bedroom apartment, and looked for another church in the region. There was a more recent building put up near to his apartment, and he went that Sunday. He was not content to watch with apathy as this church languished, but he would do everything he could to be a conduit for the Spirit. He was still very young, but he already felt significance and victory in his stead.

For God doesn't measure victory in the building's revenue, but in the community's growth. And God was going to build a mighty cathedral in everyone, this chairman knew.

He just knew. 

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