Summary: Rewritten for Montgomery Hills Baptist Church: a Silver Spring intersection is a metaphor for priorities in giving, teaching young people, engaging in healing, and sharing the Gospel with all.
To be a Christian is to live in tension with the world around you. You cannot live out your spiritual life in a cocoon; you live it out in the real world, in a community. Some, it is true, go to convents or monasteries; but that’s not an option for most of us, is it? To be a Christian, living out our spiritual identity, is to engage the world around us.
So may I introduce you to a slice of that world as a way to think about our spiritual lives? May I build a metaphor out of what is right around us to show what God is calling us to be? Let me take you to Four Corners.
Most of you know that Four Corners is a rather complex intersection not far from here, where Colesville Road and University Boulevard meet, just north of the Beltway. Several of us here live very close to Four Corners. When you stand there and watch the traffic flowing back and forth, you can see where the name comes from. University Boulevard splits into eastbound and westbound lanes, with two islands full of buildings in between. Two sets of corners, very close to one another. Four Corners.
On one of the four corners is the Woodmoor Shopping Center. It has a mix of chain stores like CVS and Starbucks, along with local shops like Woodmoor Pastry. Dave Eddy, didn’t I catch you coming out of the pastry shop one day? If you want to join me after church, I will gladly meet you at the pastry shop!
On another corner is Montgomery Blair High School. This school is a gleaming example of public education at its best, even though it became overcrowded as soon as it was built.
On still another corner you will find a row of medical offices. They hide behind plantings and make a subtle but attractive addition to Four Corners.
On the fourth of the Four Corners you see a hodge-podge of small businesses, ranging from a deli that used to be a storage shed, to an empty space that used to be a mattress store that used to be a pet shop after it was a dairy after it was a service station. Then there is a Tex-Mex restaurant that used to be a seafood house so famous that we met a man at Oxford University who knew about it; then a pupuseria that used to be a breakfast nook, a kosher meat market that used to be an old-style pharmacy – do you get the picture? Everything on this corner is a usedtobea. If you have been here for a while, you know it by what it usedtobea.
But then you also know that the distinguishing mark of Four Corners is that road split down the middle, creating islands on which there are a fast food restaurant, a pizza place, a convenience store, and a church. Marvin Memorial United Methodist Church sits right in the middle of the road, with traffic whizzing by on all sides, parking lots tucked into tight spaces. Being church in the midst of all this activity and all these diverse things.
I wonder: is this church, located at Four Corners, on an island of isolation? Or is it right where Christians ought to be, in the center of the world’s life, making a difference? Is this church hiding behind its stained glass, trying to shut out all that is going on around it; or is this church in the center of a busy intersection also in the center of the will of God?
I have very little information about that congregation. But it is a picture of what you and I face. The Scripture says to us, by the prophet Isaiah, that “the Lord will extend his hand … to recover the remnant that is left of his people … and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” And then the seer of Revelation cries out, as he envisions what God will finally do when time shall be no more, “four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds … saying, ‘Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal …’. ”
These prophetic visions remind us what God is about. He is about gathering the dispersed that belong to Him; He is about holding back the end until the redeemed are sealed. He is about being in the midst of the world, saving and healing. Our God is about redemption. He wants to gather His own from the four corners of the earth and redeem them. And that is what His people must be about as well.