Summary: Annual Theme for the church for 1988, announcing a program of enhancing the educational ministries.
(Annual Theme Sunday, Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC, Jan. 24, 1988)
A little over a year ago I brought you a report on the rebuilding of Takoma Park Baptist Church. In that report I said that our rebuilding and renewing process could be compared to the business of building a building, that what we would have to do was something like what you go through if you are going to remodel and reconstruct a building that's already in place, but needs renovation. And so I laid out a seven-year program for the recovery and renewal of this church and spoke about things like securing the foundations, opening the doors, raising the roof, and so on. The annual report as printed for this past year will remind you of all that.
No doubt I should have consulted with Mack Saucier or others of you to get more accurate information on how to go about remodeling something. These hands were not made for carpentry. Probably Jesus was the only preacher in all history who could also do a decent job working with his hands. Nonetheless I reported to you that during 1987 we would secure the foundations and I preached a sermon out of First Corinthians a year ago, on the text, "No other foundation can any man lay than the one already laid, even Jesus Christ." And then I said, when we get to 1988, the next task will be "washing the windows." Washing the windows. The idea was that we scrub up our educational systems and let them go to work letting in light.
Well, two problems with that. Two issues came up that caused me to change the metaphor just a little. First of all, I cannot find any Scripture texts about washing windows! There are quite a few places where windows are mentioned in the Bible. You have stories about folks being let down out of windows to escape from capture. You have Daniel praying at his window. You have Noah letting doves fly out the ark windows. You even have the leader of the church youth group, probably was the Associate Pastor, going to sleep during services and falling out of a window. But all of these images are of open windows rather than dirty windows. Nothing in the Bible about washing windows. I plan to remember that when spring cleaning time comes and my wife says, "You need to wash these window." I will gleefully reply, "The Bible says nothing about washing windows."
And then there is another problem too. There is another reason I have elected to change the image from “Washing the Windows” to “Opening the Windows.” Would you take a look at our church windows? If we were to wash them, would you be any more able to see through them? If we were to scrub and rinse, even using good old Murphy’s oil soap that Mrs. Beebe introduced me to, would we be able to see what's going on out on Aspen Street? Not at all; not at all. I find that our windows in particular and church windows in general are not improved by mere washing. Most of the church windows I know anything about are not made to allow us to see anything; they just filter the light and they have to be opened before you can see anything. “Washing the Windows,” in other words, is not good enough. You are going to have to open the windows. And so this morning hear the word of God through Malachi the prophet about open windows and about what you can learn, what you can see, through open windows.
(Malachi 2:1-9, 3:10)
Well, the issue is that not only does it do very little good to wash church windows, since they are not designed to let you see; the issue is that a good many church windows cannot be opened at all. Go to the magnificent Washington Cathedral and glory in the stained glass that has in it literally hundreds of images, designed to teach the Bible and to remind you of Christian history, and despite all that magnificence, despite all that color, one thing about those windows is that they cannot be opened. They are set in place, leaded in and fixed. Glorious church windows, but they cannot be opened. There’s something wrong with that.
A church where we were once members decided that in the name of energy saving and in order to protect its stained glass from possible breakage, they would install Plexiglas coverings on the outside of the sanctuary windows. Everybody bought the logic and we laid out the money and installed huge Plexiglas sheets on the outside of our church windows, and went through the first winter snug and warm inside our airtight sanctuary. But then came spring; no need for the heat anymore. Besides, isn't it getting a little warm in here? And somebody went to open one of those windows – bang! One little thing we forgot about: when you install a plastic covering over your windows, you can no longer open them! And so these church windows are now firmly fixed in place, saving energy and protecting us from the elements, but we cannot open them. There’s something wrong with that. We cannot see the world that God called us to love. We cannot feel the temperature around us. We cannot air out our own mustiness. We have closed windows. We forget that sometimes, in an effort to protect ourselves, we fix it so that we can no longer open the windows.