You can get hints at what a person considers precious from looking at their walls. Family people plaster their walls with family pictures. Sports fans decorate with maroon or burnt orange. Quilters put more quilts on their walls than their beds. You can learn a lot about a person by what they hang on their walls. You can get hints at what is precious to them.
The pictures we put up on the walls invite us to a better life. They showcase a world where the family is always together and everyone is always smiling, where the newly-weds haven’t yet gotten use to each other, where every snapshot of nature causes you to freeze in your tracks and say, “Wow!”
The reality of our daily lives, however, does not get framed. I’ve yet to see a framed picture of someone working overtime in a cubicle. There are no pictures of people checking their email. There aren’t any prints of people eating their lunch at their desk or watching a rerun of a sitcom they don’t even like. You can’t find a family picture where everyone in the family is in their own room doing their own thing.
What would life look like, I wonder, if we intentionally lived lives as if we were always being photographed, framed, and displayed. If every hour someone took our picture, printed it out, and hung it on the wall, how would our lives change? I imagine we’d sin a lot less. I imagine we’d be much more kind. I imagine we’d spend more time outside and with loved ones and less time on the couch and alone.
That’s silly, I know. The reason special moments get hung on the wall is because they are special. They are the last time the whole family got together for the wedding, with people driving and flying in from all over. They are the year that the team went to state and won at the last second. They are pictures from that vacation when you missed a turn and got lost and dad wouldn’t stop for directions, but you ended up stopping at this quaint hole in the wall and having the time of your life.
You can learn a lot about a person by what they hang on their walls. But what we hang on your walls is not simply what we consider precious, it is what we want to consider precious. It is not what we want and value, it is what we want to want and value. We don’t hang up the things we love, we hang up the things we yearn to properly love.
What am I talking about?
Many people live their lives as if their job title is the most important thing in the world to them, but they’d never frame a business card.
Many people live their lives as if their wardrobe is the most important thing in the world to them, but they’d never frame their favorite outfit.
Many people live their lives as if their vehicle is the most important thing in the world to them, but they’d never frame a picture of it.
Many people live their lives as if their retirement fund is the most important thing in the world to them, but they’d never frame their bank statement.
We don’t hang up pictures of what we want, but of what we want to want.
We don’t hang up pictures of what we consider precious, but of what we want to consider precious.
Churches are the same. If you want to know what’s important to a church, you can get hints by looking at its decorations. Do the signs say, “No Skateboarding” or “Welcome”? Do the pews in the back say “Reserved” or do they have a teddy bear? Is the center focus of the sanctuary a relic from the good ol’ days or Jesus? If you want to know what’s important to a church, you can get hints by looking at its decorations.
But, just like with homes, often we don’t hang up images of what we want, but of what we want to want. Everyone knows what church members really want. In reality churches want things stay the same or go back in time, they don’t want to move with God into the future He’s shaping. In reality churches count nickels and noses, they don’t want to honestly evaluate how well they are making more disciples. In reality churches care more about the people who are there than those who aren’t there, those people Jesus commanded them to focus on and never, ever, ever forget. In reality churches care more about their inherited traditions than their God-given mission.
We know we are not yet what God yearns us to be, and so we put up images to remind us that what we currently want is not what God wants us to want, so we put up images of what we ought to want.
We put up Jesus on the cross — reminding us that we ought to focus more on Jesus than whoever is currently on the tv.
We put up an image of Jesus ascending into heaven, reminding us that we ought to focus more on the next life than this one.
We put up a well-used Bible, reminding us that we ought to read ours and not get tangled up in soon-forgotten news and barely-accurate gossip.
And we put up candles, reminding us that there is a light in the world more powerful than all the world’s darkness, more powerful than all our darkness.
All these decorations together form a little prayer. We acknowledge to God that we’re not who we wish we were, that we’re not who He wishes we were, and yet we yearn to focus on what this room values. We yearn to focus on the cross, we yearn to trust in God’s provision, we yearn to be steeped in the power of the Word of God, and we yearn to have faith in God’s light overpowering all darkness. But we’re not there yet.
Fortunately for us, God commanded us to remember the sabbath. Once every week, we are commanded to pause our regular lives. To stop the work. To stop the shopping. To stop the cleaning. To put down the “to do” list. We are commanded to leave our homes with all their decorations to gather instead here: to sing, to pray, to speak, to listen, to give, to forgive, together. And in so doing, morning after morning, year after year, decade after decade, change happens. In time, the people who gather here begin to resemble the room they gather in.
Today we thank God for a room that values what we ought to value, but do not yet fully value. And so the question remains open: Will we one day grow to consider precious what this room considers precious? Will we focus less on our own wants and focus more on what God wants for us? Will we place Jesus not just at the center of a room but at the center of our lives? Will we? Will you?
1 Peter 2:1-7 “Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” To you then who believe, he is precious.”