Last night was Hanging of the Greens. Dozens of volunteers showed up to decorate the church for the Advent Season. It was fun and powerful. Everyone did a wonderful job and the church looks spectacular for the Christmas Season.
Chris Lea, Worship Director, resists the term “volunteer” because it sounds like people are helping this thing called the church, which is wrongly assumed by both church staff and congregants to be separate and different from the people who attend.
The church is family rather than a community center. We help but we don’t volunteer, no more than doing dishes or mowing the lawn is volunteering at home. You don’t volunteer at home. You own it. As owners the congregants have the ownership, responsibility and authority to decorate the church. Yes, pastors and staff lead the charge but the brothers and sisters do the work and make it happen. The church is nothing without everyone participating fully.
This participation is exactly what Paul draws out with his body metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12-14. The body is made up of many parts. They form one single body. The hand cannot say to the eye, “Well you are not a hand – I don’t need you, you’re not important.” The ear cannot say, “Well, I’m not important because I am not an eye.”
In my thought then, the hand doesn’t volunteer to be a part of the body. The hand is necessary. And we miss it when it doesn’t do its role.
One more theological point: Christ is the head of the body, that is, the church. We are not a body without Jesus’ Presence. When two or three gather, Jesus is in our midst. When we break bread, Jesus is revealed. The bread we break is both common ordinary bread, a shared meal with fun and fellowship like Hanging of the Greens; and the bread is uncommon bread, the Bread of Heaven, the Body of Christ, broken and distributed among us as spiritual food. The Communion is both symbol and reality, both real bread food and real Presence.
This concept is meant to blow our minds because it defies our split world – when we split off the spiritual from the “real” material world around us. (This splitting is called “Dualism,” and it is our most disastrous philosophy in Western thought – no, really it is.) When we reunite the spiritual reality and the our material reality we become a One, a Unity, a Singularity, Wholistic. Thus, we become Human Beings, rather than Human Doings. We re-establish our true identity as God-Belongers, rather than just animals, hunters and gatherers.
Hanging of the Greens did not have volunteers. Last night was siblings coming together in the name of Jesus to have fun and ‘prepare him room’ with the advent of the Savior, the coming of the world’s King, who came to be among us, as one of us. And while pastors and staff may thank congregants for showing up and working hard, this “thank you” is not a consumer contract: “Thank you for shopping at StuffMart. We appreciate your business.” No. The ‘thank you’ is the same as my wife saying ‘thanks for mowing the lawn.’ The thanks is love and appreciation (covenant), not a verbal consumer contract.
May we lean into Christmas now. May we get excited. It is time for the Body to prepare a feast.