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A Found-Paper Church

Yesterday at church we read Paul’s description of the church as the Body of Christ found in Romans 12:

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness …

JesusFor our modern lesson, we listened to an excerpt from a sermon by Jacqui Lewis, senior minister of Middle Collegiate Church, as she talked about doing the hard work of creating diversity in the beloved community. Then, during our prayer time, I asked the congregation how many of them know what is on the back wall of our sanctuary. Only about one-third of them raised their hands, though a very large, VERY bright portrait of Jesus has hung there for almost five years. Of those who raised their hands, few of them knew that it actually is a collage, and fewer still that it is a collage made of “found paper,” literally litter found on the streets and redeemed to become a work of art.

The artist, John Morse, approached me a few days after I arrived at the church and asked if we would like to have the work to hang in the sanctuary. It seemed like a generous offer, though I had no idea that it would be so bright in our rather sedate, prim and proper sanctuary. I hadn’t asked anyone’s permission, and I wondered what reaction I might get. Little did I know that no one would notice.

That is a shame because it is a perfect symbol of what the Spirit has been doing for the past five years at Virginia-Highland Church. Diverse people of every race and age and sexuality and social station have gathered to form a remarkable community of faith. It is a church unlike any I have had the privilege of being a part of. I’d like to take credit for it, but that would be disingenuous considering I have had another fulltime job the entire time I’ve been here. This community has been raised by the Spirit who has gathered up many of us from churches that discarded or disregarded us. Although we still have a long way to go, we are being woven together as the Body of Christ, the beloved community.

Who knew? Perhaps we all need a collage of litter to look at regularly and ask the Spirit to weave us into.

Blessings,

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Rev. Michael Piazza

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