Why are you grateful for church?
In a word, columns. The spiritual idea of Church has often been expressed by using classical architectural designs that usually include columns. Columns express many qualities. They are beautiful, solid, mathematical structural elements. They are silent sentinels that inspire thoughts of simplicity, strength, beauty, trustworthiness and more in all who pass through and by. Church columns, to me, represent the congregation. To explain why, I wrote the following folk tale.
The boy who wanted to leave his village
Grey Hairs, the village elder, was quietly listening to a boy who wanted to leave his village because it was an unhappy place and made him unhappy. As he listened, he picked up a slender stick from the ground. When the boy fell silent, he asked the boy if he could break it. The boy laughed and snapped it in two.
The elder then picked up a number of slender sticks, took a strip of bark from a tree limb, wrapped the bundle with the bark strip and tied it. He handed the bundle to the boy and asked him if he could break the bundle. Laughing, the boy took the bundle and tried to snap it but could not. A frown formed on his brow as he applied more strength but still could not snap the bundle.
Grey Hairs then began to take away sticks from the bundle one by one. Each time he removed a stick, he retied the bark strip and asked the boy if he could break the bundle. After taking away several sticks the boy snapped the bundle. The elder asked the boy what he had learned.
After thinking for a few minutes, the boy looked into the eyes of Grey Hairs and said, "If I leave my village because it is an unhappy place, my village will be less strong. If more boys feel like me and leave, our village will be snapped by adversity and become as dust in the wind. Our families will be carried away like the dust, too. Grey Hairs, I love my family, but how can I stay in this unhappy village? I want to live in a happy place.”
Grey Hairs put his head close to the boy's ear and whispered, “Then change it, my boy. Change comes from within! If you want a happy village, share your joy. Joy is like leaven, share your joy until the whole village is leavened.”
In the next moment, the boy heard his mother call for him. He quickly told Grey Hairs goodbye and started walking to his house. As he walked, he thought about how when he would skip down the road and whistle like a bird, some of the villagers would smile at him. They didn't join in but they smiled. Then he remembered how each day, more of them would be in their yards when he skipped by. Next he remembered the day that one of them waved at him and how the day after, there was a treat waiting on the fence for him. They all seemed happy to see him and he felt happy thinking of them.
“How could the village be an unhappy place if the villagers that he knew were happy?” he wondered.
When he was about half way to his house, he thought about the bundle of sticks. Suddenly the image bundle of sticks seemed to change into a bundle of villagers, a village that could not be snapped. A strong bundle of happy villagers. And with everyone standing tall they looked a little bit like the beautiful column his dad drew in the dust one afternoon.
The boy grinned as he walk in the door of his house. He had just realized that he didn't want to leave his village. In fact his village felt totally happy.
"Mom," he said, "Grey Hairs taught me something about our village. It made me realize that I don't want to leave. In fact, I can't leave. I have work to do. I must share my joy and let it leaven the whole village. It would be foolish of me to leave our happy village."
The boy's mother sighed with relief and hugged him tight and gave him a fresh baked cake that only angels should make. But that is another tale for another day.
Back to Question #77, isn't it quite possible that the column drawn in the dust was like one of the columns at your Church and represents your happy congregation standing together and standing tall?
+ Carolyn St.Charles
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Church Alive Question #77: http://goo.gl/9uQNW