Back in the 1980s, right after I moved to Atlanta, I attended a lot of Braves games. The route between home to stadium was quick and passed by a Krispy Kreme calling out with “Hot Donuts Now.” The most notable landmark, however, sat at the corner of Gordon Street and McDaniel Street. Above its front door, in white lettering, read the sign: “The Perfect Church.”
If I was traveling with a companion, The Perfect Church never escaped a mention. To my father, an active pastor over four decades, I’d sometimes point at the sign and suggest, “I’ll bet you always wondered where that was.”
I thought of The Perfect Church on Sunday as a typo glared at me from the Affirmation of Faith printed in the morning’s bulletin. Somehow the words…
“…to unmask idolatries in Church and culture…”
had instead been recorded as
“…to unmask idolatries in Christ and culture…”
Whoops. The misprint’s meaning was so egregious that those who spoke to me about it realized the mistake must have been unintentional – and I took comfort in that at least. Nevertheless, the mistake served as one more nettlesome reminder that the perfect church is beyond our grasp, an unfortunate reality to which I once again had contributed.
As our community prepares to end the summer season, some of us will remain here, while others will leave this Montreat home and return to another. Wherever you find yourself, a tired, imperfect world awaits.
In response, take heart! We are beckoned into a faith filled with God’s grace, in which our perfection is no more required than it is possible. In response, have courage! That gift of grace offers with it the freedom and the power to do God’s work as best as we can. In response, remember that God’s grace is not only forgiving but transforming, too! As the preacher, Jill Duffield, reminded the congregation on Sunday, somewhere “Saul is becoming Paul…right now.”
In our efforts to build a perfect church, here’s a prayer that we feel gratitude for the gift of God’s grace in the face of our imperfections. Here’s a prayer for understanding that we would recognize the power of God’s grace to free us for the work that we are called to do. And here’s a prayer that, all along the way and wherever we are, we will trust in God to give us the strength for whatever comes to pass. Bless you all.
President, Montreat Conference Center