When Jesus saw the Temple courts cluttered with people who were set up to make a profit off of the piety of the worshipers by selling them sacrificial animals and changing their currency at a profit, he was filled with indignation and made a whip and drove them out, tossing their tables about and making a mess of things. This past week a quote from NYC pastor Tim Keller made the rounds on social media where he put this event in context. “The only person who has the right to rearrange the furniture in the home is the owner.”
It got me thinking about the impulse to rearrange the furniture. When I was first married and Christine and I started a home together I was surprised at how frequently she wanted to rearrange things and how strongly she felt about it. I confess I was resistant more often than not. It was tiresome to me. I had to move the furniture and then stand about while she considered the new arrangement from every angle and then I had to pretend a cheerfulness I didn’t feel when I was finally instructed to put things back the way they had been.
But I’ve matured. I can see now how stimulating a new arrangement can be and how big a difference even a modest improvement can make.
I say all of this for two reasons.
First, when we move into our new location there will be a lot of this sort of thing. Not having used this building before there will be an initial set up, then there will be all of the sort of changes that get made as we figure stuff out, then, finally, there will be the sort of changes we make out of domestic exuberance. And I’m here for it, for all of it.
Secondly, all this about the importance of rearranging the furniture is no less true when we are speaking metaphorically about the church. For a long time now, for instance, we have been encouraged to think that all churches were either inwardly focused or outwardly focused and that the key to being a healthy, growing church was to make sure that you were outwardly focused. And that seemed to bear out for a season; there appeared to be evidence for the proposition. But what if we could add a third category? What if a church could be inclusively inward, and what would that look like? And, along those lines, what if we rearranged the house of God so that, as with a proper home, the focal point was not a platform but the hearth? What if, instead of inviting people to a presentation, we invited them to a warm fire on a cold day?
This is one of the things about making our move to the building in Pittsford that gets me excited. I see God at work in these things, compelling us to reconsider our assumptions about what church should be and what it should look like. And it’s kind of him to do for us with architecture what he did for others on another occasion with a whip.
Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church Blog