Monday, December 19, 2011

The Last Sledder

Every year, for 7 years now, Highlands Church has dumped 10,000 pounds of snow (a whole truckload) in downtown Paso Robles. At this point, I should remind my blog readers that Paso Robles is basically in Southern California, and the sight of snow in our town in December, is about as likely as a meteor hitting us (We hope that is unlikely). It never snows in Paso! However, we dump 10,000 pounds of it every year in order to build a huge sledding luge run for children to come and slide down during one of our community's street parties. We call it Ski Patrol. The image of a Swiss cross is both a symbol for skiers of safety (a member of a Ski Patrol), as well as a symbol of Christ's death. Every year Ski Patrol gets larger. When we began, we only had around 1,000 pounds of snow. Next year, plans are for two separate luge runs and a massive light display to illuminate the event.

The reason we have done Ski Patrol over the past 7 years is in order to connect with the outside community in a fun and accessible way. We attempt to show that Christians DO have fun every now and then. We also use the attraction as an outreach mechanism (a luring tool), to attract people to our church services, where hopefully we can plant some seeds of God's love. And, by in large, it has worked. The Paso Robles community have begun to look forward to Ski Patrol every year. Actually, now many other organizations are copying us (imitation is the greatest form of flattery). What has been remarkable, during the economic downturn of our country, is to see how Ski Patrol, for many families who don't have financial resources, has become their only form of entertainment all Christmas. One family recently told one of our volunteers, "This is the most fun our kids have had all Christmas, and the only fun we can afford."

But here is the main image I want to offer up from this blog post. This year, Ski Patrol ended around 9:00PM as usual. At 9:00 o-clock, all of the lights, the sleds, the bales of hay, video projection systems, and the music amplifiers were packed up and put away for another year. Ski Patrol was over, right? Not hardly. Early the next morning, around 6:00AM, someone from our church noticed a solitary, singular little boy on a sled, going down the Ski Patrol Run. The little guy was sledding all by himself. Who knows what motived him to be there. Maybe he woke up on his own, and before his parents got out of bed, he picked up his sled, and he headed out, by himself, for one or two last runs. However, this image of the "Last Sledder" has remained with me. This Christmas, for me, this little boy represents the emblem of all that the church stands for. The image of the "Last Sledder" remains with me because it symbolizes the tension between the lasting impact of what we do in our communities, verses the temporal and quickly disappearing displays that most of us are so familiar with. So, here is my question for the day...

Who will be the "Last Sledder" in your ministry this Christmas?

Who will be the "Last Sledder" after everything else gets packed up and put away this Christmas? Who will carry the message of hope that you are preaching and teaching about every week, after you are gone? Who will carry the Gospel after we are all of us are gone from the earth? Who is the person sitting in the dark in the back of church, who isn't singing, "Joy to the World," but by the power of the Holy Spirit is moved to accept Christ this Christmas, and who dedicates their life to eradicating a world disease, ending global hunger, educating abject children in inner cities?

Who will be the "Last Sledder" in your ministry this Christmas?

Here is what I have learned about "Last Sledders" in my eleven years of ministry. "Last Sledders" usually don't attract a lot of attention. "Last Sledders" often seem like they don't care, or aren't interested. "Last Sledders" may argue with you about every single thing you say, and tell you to your face that you are wrong. "Last Sledders" often come late and leave early. "Last Sledders" don't take notes, but somewhere deep in their soul, very deep, they bury what you are offering, to be unearthed like a gemstone at a much later date. In the end, the "Last Sledders" are the ones who carry the mission forward, and hold the light the highest, when everyone else is gone, when the worship service is over, and when the bands have headed home.

The apostle Paul, of course, was one of the most famous "Last Sledders". He brutally criticized and chastized Christ followers for most of his early adulthood. Paul (Saul) hated Christians and all that they stood for. But then, when most of the disciples had separated and gone their own ways, Paul woke up one morning, and pulled out his sled, and went for a run, down the luge, all by himself, just he and God. The "Last Sledder", the apostle Paul, would write these words in the city of Rome; "I Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God offer the following..." (Romans 1:1)

Who Will Be The "Last Sledder" in Your Ministry this Christmas?

All For Now,

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