From the Golden Arches to the Pearly Gates: A Lesson in Ecclesiology from My Two-Year-Old
By Joseph Summers
As part of their anniversary festivities, our whole family, all 31 of us, that is, my parents, all of their kids and our spouses, and all of their grandkids (not counting the two grandkids in utero!), spent a long weekend together at the beautiful Cypremort Point State Park cabins about an hour and a half drive from home.
As wonderful and fun as that weekend was, it was the lesson on ecclesiology, masterfully taught by my 2 year old son on our way to that weekend getaway that inspires my blog today.
After close to an hour in the car, we started looking for a good place to eat lunch, when we spotted a McDonalds, perfectly positioned at the intersection of our increasing appetites and my youngest son Benjamin’s next nursing. Providentially, this McDonalds had two very important features ensuring a successful pit stop: 1) A PlayPlace where Anthony, my 2-year-old, could enjoy himself while my wife and I ate lunch, and 2) a Caramel Frappe, which happens to be one of the most delicious beverages on the planet. It was in this unsuspecting classroom that Anthony schooled me in a proper understanding of what it should be like to be the Church.
As I watched my favorite 2-year-old approach the indoor playground equipment with awe and wonder, God spoke to my heart. You see there are no strangers at a PlayPlace. As Anthony entered the giant yellow and red tubes of the play-set, he instantly became a part of a very enthusiastic community of adventurers unified by a mission to discover all the joy that this otherworldly environment had to offer. Fellowship just happens on a playground, it is not forced or faked.
Anthony didn’t hesitate to reach out to the other kids and collaborate with his fellow men (or fellow toddlers in his case). I even witnessed this very energetic and passionate miniature community beckoning those outside the realms of the playground equipment to come and join the fun! It was really neat to see this mysterious maze of uncertainty capture my son’s imagination, at least long enough for me to savor my Big Mac and Caramel Frappe.
What if the Church approached God the way Anthony embraced the PlayPlace? What if the prospect of eternal satisfaction beyond the Pearly Gates captured our imaginations and inspired us to a unity of purpose, in the same way that the colorful play-set at the Golden Arches inspires our children? I mean shouldn’t it? The promises of our faith are way way way more grand, exciting and meaningful than any manufactured fun factory. Or what if I focused less on me and more on how incredible God’s love is; what if I allowed myself to be captivated by the mystery and grandeur of Jesus’ saving sacrifice so that I cared less about my own life, than I did about bringing others to discover this life-altering love!?
What is the matter with me? What is the matter with us? Why do we see Church as a chore rather than an adventure? The Gospel should inspire us with joy as it did the saints and martyrs. We should carry our faith with more zest for life and energy than Anthony displays when approaching the giant slide and pit of plastic balls at the local fast food franchise. I think part of the problem is we don’t realize the danger of our sin, the emptiness of the trappings of this world, and the desperate need we have for the love of Jesus.
Before his martyrdom, Nate Saint, missionary to Ecuador, wrote in his journal: “And people who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives… and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.” Let us not waste a moment on things that have no eternal worth, but rather let us beg God to teach us the genuine joy of being invited to spend eternity discovering His beauty.
By Joseph Summers