Where The Action Is-THE PEW

Let’s talk sanctuary furniture, sound interesting?  We might think the chief piece of sanctuary furniture would be the pulpit in good reformation form.  Others might suggest the altar where the means of grace are dispensed, the body and blood of Christ.  Others might point to the lectern which holds the words that point us to the Word of God, our Savior and Redeemer, Christ our Lord.  Some might speak of the beautiful stain glass windows or high nave that lifts are heads up to the heavens to sing our praises to God.  You can tell by the title, I think the pew is the first seat in the church. 

There is nothing a preacher can say that can overcome a problem in the pew.  The grace of God cannot be fully known in church if the pew is not open to the work of the spirit.  The word of God will not forcibly implant itself in the reluctant pew.  No architectural feature can draw the pew closer to God.  Pew is the most important piece of sanctuary furniture because that is real action resides in the church.  Let me spell out a few specific reasons why the pew is the first seat in the church.

1. Pews are shared spaces; people sit together.  Pews are communal seats.  Pew is not a chair; chairs are for individuals who want their own space.  Some pews can be ordered with dividers, assuming everyone stays fit.  Legend, says one church nearly divided over whether they should have divided pews.  Pews are meant to remain open and undivided, speaking of the importance of communal nature of our community.

When we enter a shared space friendliness is expected.  Since, pews are shared spaces we naturally default to friendliness.  In this way pews enable to do what Hebrews 13: 1, 2 says, “continue in brotherly love and not neglecting to welcome the stranger”.   Literally the Greek word in this passage is “philoxenias” which can be translated as “welcome the stranger”, but also means “love of stranger”.  When we sit in a pew we are more prone to do something unnatural for most of us most of the time, we treat strangers like we do our family and friends.  Thus, pews invite relationships and reconciliation.

I was sitting on my front porch in Dallas a couple of weeks ago and a fellow walked by and I spoke, which is common in our neighborhood since many of us sit on our front porches.  It was beginning to rain and with each passing moment the rain grew harder.  I noticed this stranger standing under a tree trying to stay dry.  I invited him out of the rain up on my porch to wait it out.  The rain was becoming harder and harder, so I invited him to sit down.  Terri brought him a towel to dry and we sat down together to become acquainted.  I learned he lived in a nearby halfway house and had gone for a walk to escape the mayhem of the home.  Now I knew this stranger’s story, but because we were sitting together it did not feel as threatening as it might have in another situation.  In fact, realizing the rain was not going to stop anytime soon, I offered to drive him back when he was ready.  It is amazing what happens when you sit down together; strangers become family.

2. Pews re-enforce the biblical notion of priesthood of all believers.  No one owns a pew in the church, at least not officially.  In the colonial times pew has names on them to keep the riff-raff out.  So when we visited some of those old church with famous family names that were adorned accordingly I would sit in the pews of the colonial famous to have my picture taken, just because I could.  I sat in Paul Revere’s oldest son pew; for not even the family that may have saved the colonists can exclusively own their own pew.  I sat in the Franklin family pew, where they may have witnessed Benjamin, America’s most inventive mind be baptized, in the Old South Meeting Hall.  The pew says each one of us has equal access to God.

The text read say each stone (persons in the pew) we lay to build the house of God is equally needed and important.  Each of us needs to take our place in the pew, since each is as equally important to the church as they are to God.  This says something about absence.  It has never been harder to be present in the pew than on this day.  So, if everyone of us is equally important and needed in a pew, there are many Sundays we are cannot do our best work because we don’t have all needed parts present.  Our presence in the pew make the body of Christ we have chosen to invest our faith into a stronger body and our absence makes is less strong.

Then there are those who feel they don’t belong in a pew.  Life has caused them to feel apart from the rest of us or their choices have ostracized them from the mainstream.  They think they need to be worthy to sit in the pew.  The only ones chastised in this passage are those who speak with malice, who are duplicitous, hypocritical, and envious.  While those qualities are found in our everyday world, Peter is rebuking those in pew.  Not so much that they don’t belong there, but those attitudes and behaviors are destructive to what goes on in the pew.  Since, the text says every living stone is needed to build this spiritual house that also mean those who think they are not worthy to sit in a pew.

Several Christmas Eve’s ago, at a midnight service a young woman came and took her place it the back pew just as the service had started.  Those who traditionally ushered at this service for decades, John Dale and his sons greeted her and handed her an order of service.  John tells that when he smiled at her, she was crying.  In fact crying so much she could not speak.  So, we might think John would do what most of us would do as the usher in that situation-take our seat and keep an eye on her.  Instead, John sat down beside her to see if that would console her.  It did not, in fact the situation worsened, she was inconsolable.  John was able to redeem this moment of awkwardness when he put his arm around her and held her saying nothing else.  He did so for the entire service.  When the service was over, her demeanor had drastically changed.   When I met her, she could not say thank you enough.  We wished her a Merry Christmas as she walked off into the dark back to her car and assured her there was always a place in the pew.  I think she knew that long before we ever said it.  Pews reinforce the priesthood of all believers.

The pew is where the action.  The action happens when pew priest fill these pews, sitting strategically so all are made to feel welcomed; ready with their offering to God, open to hear the spirit’s call, and enthusiastically belting out another hymn of praise to their creator.  So, don’t run to the same old pew thinking you would be missed if you were not in your place.  The pew is where the action is; and there are lots of pews for your sit because pew priest (living stones) are the essential matter that build the house of God.  That is what happens in the-The Pew!

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Published in: on May 31, 2011 at 7:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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