“… and I recall that there was a great many of you waiting outside the Chick-fil-a when it opened. Some of you had even camped out. A year’s worth of chicken – that’s worthy of a tent…”
-Rev. Leslie Stephens (Trinity UMC, Ruston)
Roughly three years ago, Chick-Fil-A opened a new location in Ruston Louisiana. Now for Dallas that’s not a big deal, but in Ruston it was quite the event. You see, until then if you wanted Chick-Fil-A you had to either go down to Louisiana Tech’s student union, or drive to Monroe, or Shreveport. Yes, it was a very big deal. The opening even made its way into our minister’s sermon, cited above. And, as y’all know, these little nuggets of greatness always seem to trigger the “emergency-brake” in my brain and make me stop and think.
What a marvelous concept: “Tent-worthiness”. It is something I had not pondered. What is it about a tent? Why does the very mention of spending the weekend camping in a tent enthrall my children and horrify my wife? Indeed, what is it about a tent?
The Ark of the Covenant resided in a tent. Furthermore, it is, to my way of thinking, entirely purposeful and not ironic or the least bit coincidental, that the man from Tarsus who was charged with taking the Good News to the Gentiles was, by trade, a tent maker. It should also be noted that just within our lifetime alone literally thousands of lives were changed by Reverend Billy Graham, in a tent.
So, what is it about a tent? I think it’s all about focus. Tents are temporary; thus, by their very nature, tents move those within them to focus on what is going on INSIDE the tent, instead of the tent itself. Compare this to a brick and mortar cathedral or church of any size. New visitors are more often drawn to focus on the structure at first, with the substance coming later. That’s not to say I don’t find significant value in church architecture; I do. But, I just wonder if that’s not the magic behind the tent. It’s what goes on inside the tent that is “tent-worthy”.
Today, we received word from NorthPark that services would be temporarily suspended out of an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 situation. If y’all are like me, while my brain tells me that it’s the right thing to do, there’s also a part of my being that is just really, really sad. Are you sad? Are you scared? Are you mad or frustrated at the circumstances we find ourselves in currently? That’s okay, I am too. But the best lesson life has ever taught me is to focus on the “what” and not the “why” in situations like this. So, might we all take a moment and ponder what is truly “tent-worthy”?
Does what is truly “tent-worthy” in life require a building? I would submit to you that “tent-worthiness” doesn’t always require a building, or a pulpit, a narthex, a youth lounge, nor even a choir loft. Yes, gathering is an important part of church life, but I believe that what is most “tent-worthy” resides within all of us. It is that divine spark, that still small voice that calls to us and says, “Peace Be With You.” My friends, if what is truly “tent-worthy” is within us, then the church itself is what goes on inside our “tents” every day.
Next week is Spring Break for the Lewis Clan. This Spring Break I’m going to focus on the “tent-worthy” things of life. I’m going to focus on what my family has going on inside their tents, respectively. And, yes, I am going to focus on what is going on inside my own tent. For it is there that I know I’ll find a certain carpenter from Nazareth who makes all things new.