We returned from a trip to Italy last week—Rome, Florence, and Venice. There’s a lot to see in those places, and we took a stab at seeing as much as we could. And one of the things that you see on any tour of Italy is churches—old, old churches, many of them quite ornate, filled great paintings and sculpture and gold.
And while they are spectacular to behold, it got to me, seeing all of that wealth conspicuously on display in all of those church buildings. It was meant to impress, I guess, and maybe all those years ago, when most of those churches were built, it had that impact, but today, those churches raised questions in my mind. Is this the kind of impression that the Church should be making? Does a conspicuous display of wealth, whether in a church building or in our own lives—does such a display represent what it means to follow the God revealed through Jesus Christ?
In his book, Slow Kingdom Coming, Kent Annan contrasts “fortress churches”—that is, churches focused only on themselves—with “jubilee churches,” which are churches that focus on the world beyond their own walls. And, from one perspective, the whole challenge of Kent’s book is to call us to be a jubilee church and to live jubilee lives.
“What breaks my heart?” Kent calls us to ask ourselves. “In the world, my country or my neighborhood, what makes me angry because it should be better?” To ask such questions of ourselves can awaken us to how it is that we are called to serve the reign of God.
--Pastor Don Steele
PS Be sure to join us this Sunday, March 26 at 11:30 am in the North Classroom when Kent Annan will join us live via Skype to talk with us in more depth about his book!