This article is in Saturday morning's religion section of the Augusta Chronicle. It takes the cake title and all!
The Rev. Jeff Miller is the pastor of Vineyard Community Church in Augusta.
Why we need scandal in the churchJeffrey Miller
The last thing I expected to see during a Sunday morning church meeting was a pink G-string, but there it was right in front of me and God and everybody.
In my church, we offer communion every Sunday during worship. All believers in good conscience are invited to take the elements and remember the body and blood of Jesus as part of our weekly gathering. On one Sunday not too too long ago, I distinctly remember singing, preparing my heart in repentance and thanksgiving to Jesus for his mercy in my life, and leaving my chair to head over to the communion table. That’s when I was met with the G-string.
Is it necessarily wrong to wear this type of garment? Probably not. But to see one during a church service on another person definitely breaks some boundaries. Maybe the person wearing it could have covered up better. Maybe she shouldn’t have put herself in a position that it would be seen. But there it was, not only visible but glaringly noticeable.
She was a few feet away from the communion table, kneeling. Kneeling and heaving as we sang about the mercy of Jesus. Being a pastor who tries to keep in touch with his people, I knew her story – she had recently left a pretty awful life behind and given herself to Christ. A 179-degree turn around, as it was. She fell hard into the mercy of God and he picked her up and restored her.
Now maybe in her second month of attending our church, she felt the freedom to participate in corporate communion. The experience brought her to her knees, and it was 100 percent genuine. God was at work. The byproduct of that, however, was that being in such a penitent posture sometimes causes one’s clothes to ruffle and stretch. It was for this reason that her undergarment was exposed. Not too much, but enough to be noticed, especially when displayed in such bright color.
What do you do in a situation like this? Should you disturb the moment to keep others from seeing this? Should you offer a blanket, subtly trying to resolve the situation? Or it is better to just let it be and have some chaos in our nice little church meeting?
I’m going to go with the third option. In that moment, I was reminded of Jesus’ encounter with the woman in Luke chapter 7, a woman whose story very much paralleled that of the person displaying a G-string at my communion table. Very sorry for her sin and very aware of Jesus’ ability to forgive it, she barged in on a meeting of holy men and fell at Jesus’ feet in worship, using the tools of her disreputable trade to worship the Savior. Despite what everyone else in the room thought, Jesus didn’t seem bothered at all.
In fact, when it was brought to his attention that this “loose” woman was not worthy to touch him, much less be in this holy house, Jesus praised and affirmed her. All the holy people in the room weren’t very aware of their need for God while the sinner in the room earned his affection and approval.
My hunch is that that group of holy men lived long, full and boring lives characterized by deep personal piety and no visible dirt under their fingernails. Meanwhile the dear lady who wept at Jesus feet was forever changed and likely served God with all her heart from that moment forward, her story inviting a thousand other scandalous sinners to find rescue.
We need scandal in the church. We need to not be business as usual. We need to identify not as a group of holy people but as a group of people gathered around a holy and forgiving God. When this happens, we create an atmosphere of mercy and allow others to access God without having to look or act in any particular way.
The late Brennan Manning wrote: “We are all equally privileged but unentitled beggars at the door of God’s mercy.”
From pastor to first-time visitor wearing a G-string, every church member and every meeting should embrace these things. That might be a true indication of whether Jesus is welcome, or present.
In our case, the beautiful young lady in question rooted in the church, allowed the Spirit of God to slowly change her from the inside out, and has become one of the best mothers I’ve ever seen. Years later, she even joked with me about how happy she was that I didn’t kick her out because of the way she dressed in the early days at our church. Hah! It never crossed my mind!