What an interesting week we’ve had down here in Etna Green. The joy of the birth of my daughter was dampened slightly by the news that the church was vandalized in my absence. Someone decided they would get into the church at night and spray off a fire extinguisher throughout the church basement and steal some money from a Sunday school classroom. We had to steam clean the carpets and scrub the tables really well to get the gunk out. The basement is somewhat back to normal, but I’m still a little discouraged.
The mission of EGCC has been to put love where love is not. I’ve begun a big push in the last year or two to become more outward focused in our ministries at EGCC. Because we believe our mission is to put love where it isn’t, we do things like feed children meals, Monday through Friday throughout the summer. There are hungry kids in our community, so we open the doors to them and offer them a free meal. Parents are welcome to come along and we happily feed them too. It’s a good ministry that meets a practical need and it helps kids. We are putting love where it is needed.
I believe the culprits of the vandalism unlocked a door during lunch, which is never unlocked, and used that to sneak in, in the middle of the night. They came in for juice and money and decided that they never saw what a fire extinguisher did and wanted to try it out. They did it a little bit and thought it was fun and then they went crazy, spraying it everywhere. Leaving a giant mess for someone else to pick up.
My initial response is to lock the doors and stop our outreach all together. Thinking to myself “If this is how kids are going to respond to our love than we will shut the whole thing down and they can starve to death.” After more reflection, I’ve realized that it is because we love them that we must press on. It only affirms all the more that there are places within so many children’s hearts and lives where there isn’t love. They need a church to open their doors and love them. They need a church to spread their arms out and welcome them in and offer them salvation in Jesus Christ. The fire extinguisher won’t put out the fire that our church has for the lost. We put love where love is not, and sometimes it hurts.
It reminds me of a painting from Vincent Van Gogh. The Sower is Van Gogh’s interpretation of the Parable of the Sower. When Van Gogh uses the color yellow it implies the presence of God. The next time you check out Van Gogh’s starry night, you will see yellow throughout the sky and in the city, and hopefully you will notice yellow’s absence in the church. He makes a powerful point with his colors. In his work The Sower, Van Gogh implores the color yellow throughout. He uses it in the field as the wheat grows, and he covers the sky in yellow. Van Gogh is reminding us that God is at work. The painting depicts the sower dredging through the field, spreading the seeds everywhere; along the path, the rocks and the birds are shown as well. To sow the seed he isn’t meticulous in avoiding the trouble spots, he spreads it liberally and he seems to hope for the best. You can pick out in the painting where the seeds will grow and where it won’t. It’s a beautiful painting that I admire more and more each time I look at it.
I suspect that when you set out to put love where love is not, some love might fall on the path and get trampled, some birds may eat it up and other times it will land on a rock and never take deep enough root to really change a life. But the point is, that the seed, or word of God is spread, and given an opportunity to grow. Yeah it may get choked out, trampled, rejected or stolen, but it may take root, grow and mature.
Van Gogh understands the parable; it’s God that does the mysterious growth, not the sower. Van Gogh teaches us that the Sowers job is a simple one; spread the seeds and let God do the rest.
I am reminded this week that our job is to keep spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. There is an absence of love in this world, and God showed us that love through Jesus Christ. His Kingdom is upon us; it is here and coming in full. No amount of vandalism will keep us from our mission to love the world as Jesus loves this world. The love we offer this community may get trampled again. It may get vandalized, threatened or stolen, but our source of love is mighty and awesome. We are filled and led by the Spirit. We won’t let a little fire extinguisher extinguish the burning desire we have in our hearts for the world to know the love of God.
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.