Proof that Jesus Lives in Rhode Island

stained-glass-1148892_640Jesus lives here in Rhode Island.

He lives other places, too, but He has a residence here with us rocky soil believers in the North East, for certain. Even though we qualify as an unreached people group. Even though Providence scores near the bottom of the country for biblical literacy. Even though you won’t hear us saying, “Bless your heart,” or “Y’all come back now.” Still, Jesus loves and abides with us.

The church is a battered and beaten entity, taking hits from outsiders and insider alike. It’s tricky to talk about her because there’s the church, which is a living organism comprised of people who love Jesus and there’s The Church, which is a religious organization that resembles the true church much like carob resembles chocolate.

Sometimes, people are exposed to The Church in a way that creates a barrier between them and Jesus. Which is sad because Jesus Is the door to life and those who walk through that door find they are in this amazing, colorful, inclusive, lively, diverse, crazy family known as the church.

Those of us who love the church, sometimes have such an overwhelming sense of our own sinfulness and shortcomings (that can happen when you’re standing in the light), we do her a disservice and don’t speak well enough of the amazing work Jesus does through her on earth. We must remember that He is the head of the church, and that no amount of counterfeiting on the part of The Church will ultimately prevail over what Jesus has established.

The Body of Christ rocks. Like the Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls, or a newborn baby, the church is an awe-inspiring creation of God. I’ve seen her in action from my childhood to now and I continue to find innumerable reasons to love her. Sometimes, like a warm home or a sibling, we take her for granted but that doesn’t mean she’s lost her capacity to amaze.

Consider her quiet generosity and her compassion for those who have been failed by all other systems humanity has created. In my day job, I work with families in need. Those needs may be basic, physical needs like food and shelter or things like friendship and guidance. The state and federal government have put systems in place to address many of these needs but there are countless cracks in that system. Whenever a family is in danger of falling through that crack, some part of Jesus’ church in RI has been there to catch them in its arms in very real and practical ways.

The thing about the church is she likes to move unnoticed through her administration of grace. She doesn’t trumpet and clang, she moves quietly in love, but she does move on behalf of others, inspired by Jesus.

Here in rocky soil Rhode Island, I’ve seen people who love Jesus buy brand new bunk beds and quality mattresses for siblings who’d been sharing a bed – without ever knowing the family. I’ve seen the family of God pay hundreds of dollars to provide shelter for women with children fleeing unsafe situations.

I’ve seen them cover everyday bills like electricity and heat and I’ve seen them supply food from their own cupboards and freezers when strangers fall short. I’ve seen Jesus-followers give handmade quilts to children who own nothing beautiful and buy countless toys for birthdays and Christmases to children with no connection to any church anywhere.

I’ve known Jesus-followers to be willing to befriend lonely single parents, to embrace people of other faiths and cultures in their gatherings, to go out of their way to help families dealing with chronic addiction, chronic homelessness, chronic hunger and never lose patience or hope. To offer jobs or job training, tutoring, and mentoring to adults and teens. Children with no means have gone to camp, taken guitar lessons, or worn brand new clothes for the first time because someone in the family of God sacrificed to make it happen.

Christians call me offering help without ever having to know names or specific situations. When I’ve called on people from the church with a family in need, I’ve never heard anyone hesitate, not even for a heartbeat. This isn’t just a Christmas phenomenon either. Jesus-followers ask year-round how they can assist. They are relentless in their quest to serve.

These aren’t acts mentioned on the nightly news. Daily sacrifices don’t make headlines. And these aren’t people trying to earn heaven – it’s already theirs. This is Jesus living and touching lives through those who love Him – not to be noticed or to get something in return but simply to express the love that He is.

Church scandals are headline news simply because it’s such the anti-thesis of what the church truly is everyday in countless ways. She is a thing of beauty to behold – like fine stained-glass flooded with the light of Jesus Christ which makes all her colors shine.

Does Jesus live where you are? If He lives in you, He does, and you shine, too. Let the lights of the season remind you of the brilliant beauty of His bride, the church, and know you are part of a glorious, generous, gracious family that give light to the world until He comes.

 


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