This week I was asked to write the St Thomas’s congregational letter. I have been burdened by this truth recently…
Dear brothers and sisters,
There is a haunting, beautiful and, to be frank, depressing song by Radiohead which I came across for the first time in a few years last week. Fake Plastic Trees has a haunting melody, which reinforces the lyrics about living in a broken plastic world.
She lives with a broken man
A cracked polystyrene man
Who just crumbles and burns
He used to do surgery
For girls in the eighties
But gravity always wins
It wears him out, it wears him out
It wears him out, it wears
She looks like the real thing
She tastes like the real thing
My fake plastic love
Francis Schaeffer used to speak of ‘plastic’ Christians – those for whom outwardly everything is just fine. Their life, family, work and church all give the impression of being whole and balanced. Of course being good evangelicals they will admit they are sinners – but broken? No…Jesus has healed me. This is not just the prosperity gospel people. Reformed Christians have our own version of that as well.
I sometimes think that we are tempted to rewrite (or at least explain away) Scripture. In our new version “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”, (Matthew 11:28) now reads “Come to me, all you who are healthy and whole, and you can serve me”.
There is a cute image that we have of Jesus the chief shepherd looking after those lovely sheep and lambs wandering through the meadows. But those of us who were brought up on farms know that sheep are smelly, dirty and not the smartest of animals. The Lord’s people are messed up people – we are complex, confused and often broken. And that is the wonder of the Church, Jesus comes to heal the broken hearted, mend the broken and beautify the ugly. The bruised reed he will not break. Which is why we as a church will always be open to all whom the Lord sends us. If you are broken, wounded, hurt, confused and pained – welcome. We have great news for you. There is a Saviour. There is healing. There is rest.
Sometimes I fear that we forget that. We think that the Church is only for those who have got everything together. We want to belong. And so we pretend. We may look like the real thing, but we become plastic. Fake, plastic Christians. But we don’t need to. The Lord knows, sees, loves and cares. He knows what we are and he is remaking us – bit by bit, piece by piece, room by room. The Church is beautiful not because it is filled with the beautiful people, but because Christ has died for her, wants her as his bride and will bring us to glory, clothed in glory. The Church is beautiful not because we are beautiful, but rather we become beautiful because Christ beautifies the Church.
Sometimes we see only the ugly. May we all be able to see the beauty of the Lord in us and upon our brothers and sisters. And may we be confident enough to invite others, no matter who they are, to come and share in this greatest of gifts.
Yours in Christ