Racism has no place in the Christian Church or in the hearts and minds of an American self identifying as a Christian. If you church spends too much time dealing with racial issues, then it is time to close the doors of the church and encourage members to find other places to worship. Church should not be battle grounds or conflict resolution centers. If you are running a sinners rehabilation center, then do not call yourself a church. Your church should be ready for a visit from Jesus at any place and any time. If the police visit your church more than Jesus, it maybe time to consider your churches mission. A church should be a house of love, service and prayer, not a place where you go to learn who to hate or which people are unworthy of God’s grace. I welcome you to come to my church, we welcome a visit from Jesus and we stand ready to welcome you.

Some years ago, as a seminary student, the class was given the assignment to write about an imaginary visit from Jesus to the churches from which we came, this is the report I wrote about my church. I thought I would share it at this time for our meditation period. . The seminary was interfaith therefore other faith traditions were represented in the class. Here is what I wrote. The Riverside Church in New York City is known for its three “I’s”. It is Interracial, International and Interdenominational, therefore, all denominations would feel comfortable here. The pastor is same as the Rabbi of any very large and wealthy synagogue. He performs the same functions. There are several other ministers working with him, who have responsibility for different areas of pastoral care and administration.

The membership is in the thousands, and the Church is considered the Flag Ship of American Protestantism. The Christian Church must be ready at anytime for a visit from Jesus. The Church and the congregation focuses on the work of Jesus, and what He would think and say if H e came into the Church. Jesus was about change and inclusion. We must always be ready for a visit from Him at any time. As Christians we encourage people to come to the Jesus family. Therefore, I asked myself, what would Jesus say if he visited the Riverside Church?

The first thing Jesus would say would be, “Wow.” He would take his eleven disciples and walk the halls, and say, “ This is the way it is suppose to be done.” He would walk into the various religious education classes and enjoy listening to stories from the Old Testament. He would see individuals of all ages gaining wisdom and directions from studying the past. He would take the Tower elevator up to the room where the Quakers are holding service. He would take the elevator back down, and stop by Christ Chapel and spend time in the Ethiopian Church service. Blessing them and greeting the priest He took part in the delicious feast they served after each service. After quick visit to the afternoon Chinese Church, He kept His promise to visit the Korean service. Hearing the joyful noise coming from the room down the hall, Jesus stopped in and spent time with the Maranathas, the LBSG, were holding their regular social gathering. Along the way, He would discover rooms where advanced Bible classes were being taught. Having been joined by this time by Mary Magdalene, He would be welcomed by female clergy who play a significant role in the religious services in the church. Jesus would see the messages of the New Testament being worked out in the daily operation of the Church. The young children would look out from their classrooms and thank Him for saying, “Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” They know Jesus because the church considers religious education an important part of its mission, and as a results, it owns and operates a very successful school.

Jesus would love the social and economic diversity he would see. He will enjoy been greeted by many languages and cultures. He and the disciples would point with pride to the full family food pantry service store, which is located in the building. There he will see individuals who may be experiencing economically depressed circumstances, receiving shopping carts full of groceries sufficient to last for 4 days. Jesus would enjoy seeing His words put into actions, as he visits the homeless shelter located in the building. He would be happy to find a full clothing store with people in it fitting individuals with the outfits the need to enter into the job market.

He learns that some of the customers had fallen on challenging times and were making their way back into the world. Riverside Church was there to help them in their transformation and new journey to life. Arriving on a weekday, he is invited to see the “Shower Project” where men and women who find themselves in the category of “Homeless” can have a hot shower and a fresh change of clothing. Blessing this service, he is guided to a large area where women are sitting, with shopping carts, waiting to receive weekly supplies of food from the large super market operated by the Church.

Jesus would love the mixture of ethnic and intergenerational groups moving throughout the Church and he would call it good. Young men on their way to basketball practice, hold the doors for senior citizens with walkers and canes. It is good to be in the house of the Lord, and seeing the Body of Christ doing the Lord’s business. Jesus would find it interesting as he goes from room to room in this magnificent building designed to do his work. In one room there is a heated discussion about current political situations.

Some members are from the social Justice committees are planning a peace demonstration march against some war or injustice some place on the national or international scene. Some are voicing their support of the president and his policies. Jesus would smile and say,” tension is good, it is the mark of an active Church.” He would be especially pleased to find an open and affirming policy relating to sexual orientation. Space for Grace especially caught His attention, as He arrived in time to see some of the ministers of the Church washing the feet of some of the congregation  

Seniors are keeping alive the traditions of old, and all over the Church, children in the youth ministry are encouraged in their spiritual Christian formation, rapping for Jesus, dancing for Jesus, and telling in poetry and song the Good News He brings about the future. Christian witness starts on Monday and continues through Saturday.

Sunday mornings the believers and the hands of God come together to worship as one body. It is at this time the Riverside Church gets its marching orders to go out and make the Word of Jesus the Christ come alive in the hearts, minds and body of His people.   You are also welcomed regardless of race, color creed, gender or sexual orientation, the Church and the heart of God is big enough for all. We do not do race, we do God’s grace.

Leave a Reply