Invitation: Clutter

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My car is usually a mess.

It started out clean and new, and I kept it that way for a few months, but I travel a lot, eat in the car a couple times a week, and accumulate items from work and home. Any more I don’t notice it most of the time. It’s nothing to be proud of, but sometimes it just is. Have you ever heard of the term “clutter-blind?” It describes things like the sticky note reminders all over your desk that you no longer notice, the items in your closet you move out of the way every time without thinking, or the receipts, books, and fast food bags piling up on your seats.

The times I do notice it are when I need to give people a ride. If it’s just one person, I can make a quick apology and grab a quick head start to clear the passenger seat. If it’s two or three, it can be pretty embarrassing. More often than not, I have to decline. Whether you’re judging, nodding in understanding, or just confused, there is a bigger point to this.

Sometimes we are clutter-blind to behaviors. Maybe it’s the way you click your pen in meetings, or hum at the dinner table. In churches, our clutter is often made of habits and assumptions. Like clutter on a desk, to the familiar eye they are more background than anything, but to the unfamiliar eye, it’s difficult to determine what’s important. If someone new came to our worship, what would we have to push out of the way before they could fully participate? To start with, our assumptions they understand any of it at all. And next, our habits that may exclude or alienate them. Referring only to acronyms or first names, launching into hugs during the passing of the peace, or breaking into our usual cliques in the parking lot may be comforting to us but off-putting to others.

The trick to de-cluttering is knowing what to keep, where to put it so you handle it most effectively, and what to throw away. If there are parts of worship that require explanation every time, think hard about whether you need them, or if you should make them more user-friendly. It took a long time for me to figure out that “narthex” just mean”front hall.” Such jargon only serves to make people feel like they are not part of the in-group.  Chances are many years ago your worship service and church experience started out new and clean, but after it’s been driven until the odometer goes around a few times … not so much.

The most important place to de-clutter is the communion table. We need to clear away any doctrinal or ritual clutter we might have added – anything that keeps people from understanding and participating. Christ died for all of us, and instructed us to observe this meal to remember the sacrifice of his body and blood. It is a privilege to come to the table, but not one bestowed or limited by man; it is an invitation directly from Christ, and all are welcome.  Keep a seat at the table clear for everyone.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

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