Monday, January 4, 2010

Of Mice and Manatees - My Article in Southside Messenger

Spirit & Truth # 162
“Of Mice and Manatees”

By Rev. Greg Smith

This Christmas, my kids were surprised when my mother visited, but brought no great armloads of presents. Instead, she announced, “In two days, we’re going to Disney World!” They couldn’t have been happier.

After a 16-hour train ride from Richmond to Orlando, we inaugurated our trip with a swamp boat ride to see the gators. Then we spent a day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (I liked the Indiana Jones stunt show). After that, there was a day at Magic Kingdom (Pirates of the Caribbean was the best!), and then a day at Sea World (My favorite were the manatees). Following that was a day at Epcot (I loved the Fantasmic show), and another half-day at Sea World (on a BOGO deal from that park). We had loads of fun!

There was one snag in our vacation: The week after Christmas is the busiest week of the year for Disney. The crowds were ridiculous! Some of the rides had a 2-hour wait. When the parades came through, everything became mayhem. People jostled one another to see, or just to keep their children safe from the trampling masses.

More than once, I heard Disney referred to as “the most magical place on earth,” or “the happiest place on earth.” But you’d never know it from the expressions on many of the adult faces I saw this past week. I thought about Jesus, who said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3 NIV).” You see, the children didn’t care about the crowds. Their faces were radiant! They were there to see Mickey, and nothing could darken their experience when they were in his magic kingdom.

This is the way we must come into Jesus’ kingdom—as little children, aglow in the presence of the One who saves us and loves us. When we’re with Him, nothing else should matter. Yet how often do we act at church like the adults I saw at Disney? Yes, from my vantage point in the pulpit, I’ve seen some of your sour faces. I’ve watched you jostle one another for the best seats. I’ve seen the fights that have almost broken out in business meetings. My question to you is this: Why should Disney be known as the happiest place on earth? Shouldn’t that be the church?

The apostle Paul tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV).” Disney World has a reputation to uphold, so I recommend that they do something about allowing so many people into the park that it sours the experience. The church has a reputation to uphold as well—let’s find His joy, so everybody will want to take a trip to Jesus’ miraculous Kingdom!

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