Dedicated Space

One of the descriptions of Jesus that I love comes from the first chapter of John’s Gospel where He is named as The Word. God’s voice was heard in the cry of an ordinary child born in the inconvenient setting of a stable. John’s poetic writing further defines this gift of Love: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” One scholar translates this good news by saying that Christ pitched a tent among us. In The Message translation of the Bible, Peterson says He “moved into the neighborhood.” His birth caused such an uproar that His parents had to flee to another country where they lived as refugees for several years. When they could safely return to their homeland, they were directed to live in a backwoods town where they knew no one. “Home” took many forms for the holy family but the foundational support was always found in their faith. They knew that this Child was of God and that God would shape a home for them wherever they travelled. Theirs is a radical faith that both challenges and reassures me!

Photo by Magic K on

Several years ago our church partnered with a new congregation that reached out to residents in a mobile home park. Several generations of absentee landlords have made a healthy living off lot rent from folks who often struggle to make ends meet. As the outreach of this new mission yielded fruit and lives were changed, local businesses and individuals offered support. Someone donated a building that had been vacant for several years and volunteer labor transformed it into a multi-purpose community center. With a worship space, kitchen and rooms for teaching, it promised to shine the light of Christ into a troubled neighborhood. A date was set for a dedication with influential leaders and struggling neighbors invited equally to share in the joy.

I pulled into the parking lot for the consecration of this ministry center, looking forward to the worship service where we would praise God for the provision of a building and laborers. I was struck that there were very few cars and little action outside of the facility. Since virtually everything was cancelled that week due to a damaging storm, I wondered if the dedication had been postponed. As I entered the building I was surprised that it was  buzzing with activity! I recognized many of the residents of the nearby neighborhood who were talking and laughing with each other. On a service counter to the right of the entryway, drinks and food were set out. A woman stationed at the door warmly welcomed me and I asked about the service. It would have to be postponed, she told me with a smile. Countless residents had lost electricity in their mobile homes and stories of burst pipes were shared by many. Out of necessity, this fresh, clean church had become an overnight shelter. The cookies and punch intended for the celebration were now part of a meal along with boxed pizzas donated from a nearby restaurant chain.

The greeter invited me to take a look around the facility. The sanctuary of the building was filled with cots, people sitting on their temporary beds immersed in conversation. A small dog in a plaid sweater drew an adoring crowd. Three teenaged girls were clustered together around their phones, eating from cups of grapes that were lovingly distributed. There were smiles on the faces of volunteers which brought smiles to the weary whose dire needs were being serviced. I was struck that this was the perfect dedication of this building. The congregation was gathered for the first time, taking refuge in a sanctuary that was crafted especially for them! Many of the neighbors had taken an active role in the renovation, never imagining how soon it would serve as their dormitory! The carpeting took a beating and the bathrooms were put to the test. But Christ was praised because some folks invited the Word of God to dwell in them richly. They chose to leave the comfort of life-as-usual and trade it in for a ministry launch that was sacrificial.

Not surprisingly, this congregation has thrived. Though the dedication of the church didn’t go as planned, it was the perfect reminder that Jesus disrupts our plans and invites us to clothe the naked, house the homeless and feed the hungry. When we trade in our plans to embrace God’s invitation, captives are released and despair is replaced with hope. Cold bodies warm together in a freshly painted space and the carpet bears stains when the rescheduled dedication happens. No one could be more grateful.

There’s power in the Word of God and our response is always worship—joyful worship! It might not always look the same but, when we meet God and share that love, we follow in the footsteps of the One who reminded His disciples that He had no place to lay His weary head. In our troubled world, Jesus invites us to watch for service opportunities that surprise us and disrupt our carefully laid plans. That’s great news, right?