Jesus the Teacher: What Reward?



Pastor Rick Court delivered the message from the Voorhees campus that focused on the 6th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew and how our hearts help to bring the realm, or the “dream,” of God into the here and now. But since he hadn’t been in Voorhees since January, Rick started off by updating us on how things were going in the newly “birthed” Mt. Laurel campus.

Rick said despite a lot of snow and rain to contend with, which isn’t fun when you have lots and lots of crates of all sizes to roll in and out of the Harrington Middle School, the new campus is doing well, as more and more people are being invited to come check it out.

Since I had helped birth Hope in Voorhees at Signal Hill Elementary back in November 1990 as a member of Haddonfield United Methodist, I wanted to be at the Mt. Laurel campus when it officially kicked off. I went for the dry run as well, so I learned a little bit of how to “put together” different parts the worship space, from the curtains to the “stage” and the screens. And no one needed to show me how to stack folding chairs into the racks. I was an old hand at that from my Signal Hill days.

As I helped and watched the cafeteria transform into Hope II, or what Rick said Pastor Jeff Bills has dubbed our “outpost of faith,” I marveled not only at what all this entailed but that by only having a small trailer for what we brought in and out of Signal Hill each week, 27 years ago, we had gotten people to keep coming back to Signal Hill! Although we had a stage at Signal Hill (which had curtains), we did not have a sound board or screens to run videos or display words to songs or the Scripture readings. Our “band” consisted of Suzy Wilson (then Rice) on the keyboard and Randy Petersen on the guitar (that was not the kind you can plug into a synthesizer). Marilyn Bills led us in the singing part of the service, directing us with her hands (and helping us to know when the music when “up” or “down.”) A table with a green cloth and a cross on top raised on cement blocks served as our altar. In the back of the “cafetorium,” we had tables with mostly homemade cookies, along with coffee pots perking.

Maybe now, nearly 3 decades later, with everyone so attuned to social media and video, that kind of “simple” church wouldn’t have attracted people looking for a new (or first-time) church home and to meet God. Maybe people would have come for one service and not come back. But maybe that wouldn’t be the case. Rick talked about how hypocrites in the time of Jesus pretended to be someone they weren’t based on their outward image, in essence, wearing a mask like the actors of the day did; today, it’s not much different. Distracted Christians still abound who care more about the gifts of the world and the possessions on display in their homes instead of storing up treasures in your heart, where God lives.

However, I think that when people meet authentic followers of Jesus, who are trying to confirm to His image for the sake of others and the kingdom on Earth, it doesn’t matter if they are at an elementary school that turns into a church via the contents of lots of boxes, or in an office cubicle, a grocery store, or on a neighborhood sidewalk. No matter where God is encountered, they will hear God and want to know Him more.

-Lauree Padgett


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