Good and Dirty

Oxen are good and dirty. Dirty, because it takes a lot to care for an ox, but good, because they get a lot of work done. Now, very few of us have either oxen or mangers, but as the apostle Paul says some place, β€œIs it for oxen that God is concerned? Does He not certainly speak for our sake?” In other words, this text isn’t really about oxen. Instead, the point of this proverb is a principle of biblical wisdom: Resources complicate things, but bring about great blessings.

And as we consider our new building, in terms of this proverb, this facility is an ox. Before we bought this building, our rented manger was pretty clean. We could set up the chairs, worship, and disappear. When the heat broke down, it was not our problem. When the water pipes broke, it was not our problem. When the parking lot needed to be cleared of snow, it was not our problem.

But while our manger was clean, our harvest was limited to what we could plow by hand. People couldn’t find us. We didn’t have a permanent address to point people to. There was no square inch where we could point to and say, this space is dedicated to the worship of God. The church offices were off in Odenton. If we wanted a Saturday morning meeting, we had to go rent another manger. Our manger was clean, but our crops were not abundant.

So we bought an ox. We bought a big, dirty, smelly, clumsy ox, and we plunked him down into our manger, and he is making a mess of things! We now have a wonderful building where God is worshiped, and where we have the opportunity to pursue ministry to Annapolis in a greater way than ever before, but the manger is not clean. We have new responsibilities – lawn maintenance, a lot more building to clean, heating bills, internet bills, a parking lot to plow, rooms to furnish, and so on and so forth. The manger is getting dirty!

So consider how you can start grabbing a shovel and mucking out the stall. Our ox is hungry, and it’s our job collectively to keep him fed, so that he will be strong enough to plow. Maybe you might consider setting aside a regular block of time and tackling a specific need that our new building has brought about: cleaning bathrooms, helping to furnish and decorate, maintaining the grounds, helping with graphic design or website stuff. These are areas where the deacons take the lead, but just like the elders equip the saints for ministry, the deacons equip the saints for service. Just as you are not spectators during worship, you shouldn’t think of yourselves as spectators when it comes to caring for the resources that God has given the church.

This isn’t news to you; many of you already serve the body in helpful ways. And I don’t want anyone to feel guilty and be motivated to help out of a sense of obligation. God is not a slave-driver, and He is not a manipulator. He is a farmer, and He has given authority of the farm to His Son, and empowered us as farmhands with His Spirit. He equipped us with a big ox, and pointed us to the field where the harvest will grow. The crops, not guilt, should be your motivation.

What crops are we talking about? What harvest are we looking for? We’re looking for a harvest of worship, community, and mission: more prayers offered to God, more people to sing Psalms to God’s glory, more opportunities and avenues to teach and preach God’s all-sufficient, soul-saving, life-transforming good news. We’re looking for a crowd to gather around God’s table, a host of saints feeding on Christ together, sharing life with one another, and inviting others to come and share in the bread of life. And it all starts with a big ox plowing up the fields.

Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 by CJ Bowen