What you see here is every dish in our house - DIRTY. Under normal circumstances, this would probably get my wife a tad worked up. I'm often given a hard time when I 'use every dish in the house' to make dinner. And though I can be guilty of that, at least dinner is usually awesome! Well, most of the time it is. But really, nobody in my house complains when being served a meal they didn't have to make.
The mess above, though, is due to a great Labor Day weekend party at our house. Our house was full of family (it was my dad's birthday the day before) as well as a few ministry friends that needed some good food and fellowship. We grilled out, ate well, and played with our baby; our boy, in all of his crawling-awesomeness was the real star of the day - not my grilled chicken fajitas.
Appetizers, main courses, and desserts all led to every plate in our house (literally) getting dirty, as well as a great deal of cups, silverware, and most of our cooking and serving vessels and utensils. All comprising 2-and-a-half loads for our dishwasher, not including all of the things we scrubbed by hand. We had to clean off every counter top, table, the bar, the sinks, the grill, and, and, and ...
As my wife and I took stock of the apparent devastation, we just hugged and gave thanks that we had such a rich life - full of wonderful people, and a place where we could gather them all up. Then we did the dishes together.
A couple of weeks ago, I heard a pastor say, "If it isn't messy afterwards, ministry probably didn't happen." It's rung true for me lately. What if we measured our ministry by the messiness it creates? Messiness shows signs of life, and when we offer true hospitality to our family, friends, and neighbors, messes come along with the people.
What if we measured a successful service by the scrap pieces of paper on the floor, or the candle wax on the pews and seats after Christmas Eve worship? What if we measured the success of a church supper by the dirty dishes it created? What if a church mission was measured by the supplies needed to get God's work done? We often lament during winter at the amount of cough drop wrappers my choir leaves behind in the loft on Sunday, and while I urge them to clean up after themselves, the loft is only dirty because people are there serving.
What if we even invited more of a mess? What if we decided that it was ok for (gasp) coffee cups to come into our sanctuaries? And what child keeps things clean? I mean, even our infant can't help but make a mess every minute he's awake.
Where can you invite a little more messiness into your faith community? Or, what do you consider to be the signs of successful ministry and fellowship?