Remarks by Derek Penwell at the public dedication of Woodbourne House on September 30, 2013.
Generally speaking, when the church makes news something’s gone horribly wrong. Some group of Christians, brandishing bullhorns and grammatically dubious placards has elbowed its way into our living rooms by way of the cable news channels to inform us about what worthless reprobates we really are because we don’t believe _____ (X), or because we’re way too lenient when it comes to the issue of _____ (Y).
Then there are the scandals. We’ve witnessed too many shocking improprieties—sexual and financial—to deny it.
Christians have demonstrated an uncanny ability to avoid living up to what they say they believe. This kind of hypocrisy … of over-selling and under-delivering on our faith has rightly caused people to question our commitments.
Those folks who claim to follow Jesus need now, more than ever, to start living like he lived; which is to say, they need to start loving the people Jesus loved.
Of course, he loved everybody, but he had a special place in his heart for those living closest to the edge, those separated from the chaos of destitution by the thinnest of margins.
The author of 1 John says it well:
“How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (1 John 3:17-18).
Here at Douglass Boulevard Christian Church—beginning with the leadership of Lively Wilson—we’ve been asking ourselves over the past few years how we—who’ve been blessed with “the world’s goods”—can use what we have to offer life, and love, and justice to those whom Jesus loves. We’ve taken to viewing the resources we’ve been given as tools to be used to love people—not as artifacts to be curated in a museum.
We have this wonderful location, these beautiful buildings. Why not use them for others? Why not give them away?
I’m talking about seeing these resources as gifts that we can share with the community, not as heirlooms be covered in plastic and stored in mothballs. The buildings churches maintain are hammers—if they’re not being used to pound nails, they’re just decorations in a lovely toolshed.
And here’s the thing: If your church building is a tool, and if you spend more time polishing and oiling the stuff in your toolbox than actually making things—it is altogether appropriate for people on the outside to wonder whether you are a carpenter or merely a tool collector.
Woodbourne House is an instantiation of the belief that we’ve been given gifts—not so that we can keep them, but so that we can give them away in the service of loving those people whom Jesus loves.
Woodbourne House is our modest attempt at DBCC to extend the history and to honor the tradition of this faith community by giving to seniors in need of low cost senior housing from “the world’s goods” with which we’ve been blessed.
It is, finally, our effort to love “in truth and action,” and not just in “word or speech.”