Summary: For Christ the King Sunday and in support of international missions: using a metaphor of a complex intersection, we are to give, teach, heal and share as the four corners of our Christian life.
May I introduce you to my neighborhood? For two months now I have been burning up the Beltway and 270 coming up to your place two or three times a week. It would seem only fair that you should come down to where I live, if only in your mind’s eye. Let me introduce you to Four Corners.
Four Corners is a rather complex intersection in Silver Spring, where Colesville Road and University Boulevard meet, just north of the Beltway. When you stand there and watch the traffic flowing back and forth, you can see where the name Four Corners comes from. University Boulevard splits into eastbound and westbound lanes, with two islands full of buildings in between, so that there are two sets of corners, all very close to one another. Four Corners.
What you see at Four Corners, where I have lived for almost thirty-seven years, is a metaphor for our world; and a symbol, too, for what the Kingdom of God is about. Imagine it with me.
On one of the four corners is an older shopping center. Built in 1948, it has a mix of chain stores like CVS and Starbucks along with local shops like Woodmoor Pastry (if you want to visit the neighborhood, I will gladly meet you there!).
On another corner is the new Montgomery Blair High School. Once in downtown Silver Spring, this school is built on a tract of land that had nearly been forgotten. It 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 lovely plantings and make a subtle but attractive addition to Four Corners, marred only by a service station and a crowded Post Office nearby.
On the fourth of the Four Corners you see a strange hodge-podge of small businesses, ranging from a deli that used to be a storage shed; a mattress store that used to be a pet shop after it was a dairy after it was a service station; a Tex-Mex restaurant that used to be a seafood house so famous that we actually met a man at Oxford University in England who asked us 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.
Now remember, I said that the distinguishing mark of Four Corners was that the road split down the middle, creating islands on which there were a number of things – a fast food restaurant, a pizza place that used to be a fire station, a convenience store that used to be a glass shop (there’s that usedtobea theme again!) – and the island also contains a church. A large 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 the church must always 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, not only of a busy intersection, but also in the center of the will of God?
I have no information about that United Methodist congregation. But I have tremendous interest in our church on this day that celebrates what God is doing. 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 envisioned what God would 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, one from Isaiah more than seven hundred years before Christ and the other from John late in the century after Christ, point us to the four corners of the earth and 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. And that is what His people must be about as well.