There is a saying in the restaurant business that, “You don’t want to ever be the best kept secret.” This is so true! If you own a great restaurant whose signature dish is an amazing lamb chop, grilled to perfection with a fantastic sauce that all who have tasted it say is delicious…the worst thing in the world would be if no one ever knew about how great your lamb chops were. This is especially true if other restaurants around town also had lamb on their menus and theirs was only so-so.
In our gospel passage from the daily office this morning, John 7:1-13 we have the following quote:
“…for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.”
Jesus’ brothers and sisters are urging him to go out into the world and show the world the powers of healing and transformation that he possesses. They have seen him tromping around the countryside in Galilee and want him to head into Judea so that Jesus’ disciples will see and believe in him (even though John reports that Jesus’ own brothers and sisters didn’t really believe he was all that special).
I think the Episcopal Church has done exactly what the owner of the restaurant that’s the best kept secret has done….we’ve kept to ourselves for the most part thinking that just because we have the best lamb chops in town people will come. And sure, some people do…the people who happen to wander in, the people who are friends of friends, and that’s been enough to keep the doors open…for now. But, we know that fewer and fewer people come by on average. Guess what happens (and is happening now to many Episcopal churches) when fewer and fewer people come to be fed?
The Episcopal Church is the best church in our neighborhood. The Episcopal Church is the best church in the country and we have so many amazing things to offer to our parishioners, to our neighborhoods and to the world. Our liturgy is beautiful and moving. Our music is some of the best church music anywhere. Our ministries help millions of people in thousands of ways–both locally and around the world. We have a deep history of fighting social injustice and proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ in our thoughts, our words and our deeds. We are creedal–we hold fast to the creeds of the ancient Christian church and work to make those belief statements come alive in the world around us. We hold Holy Scripture as revealed in the Holy Bible as primary to who we are as a church while being socially progressive and accepting all who come to us, be they the faithful, the doubter, or the seeker.
We do all of, “these things,” and dozens of other amazing and inspiring works as well…so why does our church continue to resist, almost stubbornly, to “show yourself to the world?” Why are we the best kept secret in religion?
I’m waiting for the day when The Episcopal Church wakes up and decides to embrace how wonderful and great we are. I’m waiting for the day when as a denomination we decide that we’re actually going to tell someone about why we are such a fantastic church and…wait for it, wait for it….INVITE THEM TO COME AND SEE WHAT WE ARE ALL ABOUT.
Church attendance is in decline. We can choose to keep to ourselves how incredible we are as a church and quietly slip further into irrelevance or we can do something about the situation. We can tell people where we go to church. We can advertise on a national scale (Lord knows we could produce a better Super Bowl ad than any that were aired this year). We can do a hundred other things to tell the aching world about the joy that we have not just as a church but as disciples of the risen Christ…we can tell the world that what we have found has changed our lives and in some cases literally saved our life.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to become “widely known,” for every reason that we go to church–for all of the reasons why we love The Episcopal Church, and we need to stop acting in secret. We do ALL these things and we need to show ourselves to the world.
In Christ’s name,
preach it brother! don’t get me started on all the ways we manage to hide our light under a basket.