To me, there are few foods that are better than a fresh, ripe peach. It is sweet and soft in your mouth with the most delicate and singular flavor. Some friends gave me a sack of tree-ripened peaches, two of which are in that picture. The wife apologized that they were “seconds” which she liked to buy because she was going to can and make preserves out of them. The orchard considered them lower than premium grade because these had pockmarks from hail. Some were so ripe they were already bruised. I loved them! They might not have looked perfect, but they tasted marvelous. It was the taste that mattered, not the looks.
They remind me of the struggle we are having in many of our Christian congregations right now. To many outsiders, our congregations are pockmarked by their not-so-Christian-ness. Those blemishes, just like the ones on the peaches, are genuine. We have become comfortable in our buildings that were once monuments to our success and are now half empty. But, many (not all) of our young people are turned off by how judgmental we are and our defense of the status quo.
Yes, indeed, congregations are pockmarked things. We can look and act a lot like the Pharisees of this day and age. BUT, I still don’t know a better place to begin to work out how we love God and our neighbor as ourselves. That’s why we are in a Christian congregation. I have never been loved as I have been loved in a congregation by people I wouldn’t know from Adam any other way. The first people I ever learned to pray for outside of my family were people in my congregation. We have disagreements in congregations, but we are at least weekly reminded that our egos are not the most important thing. God loves us, but God also loves the person two rows up that we are at odds with, and with the people who live next door to the church but don’t attend anywhere. In the long run, the love of God wins—in our congregations and in our lives.
Hail to thee, blemished peaches. You are still ripe and sweet.