Diamond in the Rough
Well, it’s fix’in to be a noteworthy holiday season for Rev. Bartholomew West. He and the good folks at Sweet Spring Baptist Church, out there on the Hi Plains, are gearing up for their annual Thanks-Living Stewardship and Spirituality emphasis. Emaline Feist has all the ladies on the Food, Fellowship and Flowers Committee humming like a well-oiled machine as they make plans for the big All-Church Turkey Supper. Her husband, Alvin, volunteered to round up the cornstalks, hay bales, pumpkins, and enough Indian corn to transform Fellowship Hall into a reasonable facsimile of an authentic pilgrim village. Emaline put her foot down, though, when Alvin suggested they really get into the spirit of things and dress like pilgrims and he could carry a musket and fire that baby off to quiet people down for the Reverend’s blessing. “No,” she said. And even though Alvin wanted to take another run at trying to convince her, the look on Emaline’s face made him decide to give it up for a lost cause.
Harley Reese and Betty Hayden are busy lining up people to share their tithing testimonies for the next three weeks. Trouble is, it’s getting harder and harder to find anyone with a fresh story about the joys of sacrificial giving. Pastor Bart suggested they talk to that new couple, the Watsons, but Harley wasn’t sure they had been around long enough to have any credibility with the old timers. “Credibility!” Betty said, exasperation ringing from every syllable. “For heaven’s sake, Harley, they’re here, they breathe and they tithe. How much more credibility do they need?” … “I guess you’re right,” he finally agreed. “But will you ask them? I might say something stupid.” Betty agreed, thinking to herself that “might” was not the word she would have used.
Pastor Bart is spending much of his time working on a Bible study series on Christian spirituality. Since his disastrous sermon from Luke 18 on the parable of the poor, persistent, persevering person and the miserable, miserly, maladjusted magistrate, he has given up trying to alliterate and is just trying to find good solid words to describe the many aspects of spirituality. “Spirituality needs to be passionate,” he thought. “And it needs to be attractive and fresh and consistent, even disciplined. But how do I drive home that truth in a way that really connects with folks?”
In his off hours Bart is spending time in his workshop. An amateur lapidary, he is trying to make the perfect Christmas gift for his wife, Cheryl. Several years ago, while on a trip to Israel, Bart came across a 0.93 carat round uncut white diamond. The moment he saw it he could picture what it would look like as a cut and polished gem hanging from a chain around Cheryl’s neck. Though the Israeli gem dealer was tough, Bart knew his stuff. They dickered for two days, but in the end Bart got a bargain. His grandfather’s name wasn’t McNeil for nothing, he thought, as he pocketed his treasure and walked back to the hotel. … But finally cutting the diamond was a lot more difficult than buying it. It took a while, but he finally found a gemologist who would cut the stone and leave the polishing to Bart. He could have had the whole thing done professionally, but he really wanted to have a hand in the creation of a gift this precious and beautiful. “It would mean more to Cheryl,” he thought. Really it would mean more to Bart. … And so for months now, Bart has been carefully and painstakingly polishing each facet of the diamond. He already knew how he would mount it and what chain would hold it around Cheryl’s neck. And if all went well, it would be done in time for Christmas.
It was while Pastor Bart was polishing the diamond that the idea struck him. Christian spirituality is like a precious diamond that God has given each one of us. All those different aspects of spirituality are like the facets of that diamond. Our job is to take this diamond of spirituality and cut and polish it until it is the most perfect reflection of God’s grace it can possibly be. … The devotional reading from Colossians that Bart had been meditating on throughout the day suddenly sprang to the front of his mind. “We’ve been reconciled through Christ’s death in order that He might present us to Himself, holy and blameless and beyond reproach – if indeed we continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel – … Because of Jesus, he thought, we’re just like the gift I want to give Cheryl. And the only way we’re going to be holy and blameless and beyond reproach is by continuing to polish the facets of our diamond spirituality!”
“I’ve got a great idea for driving home the point about how our Christian spirituality should look.” Pastor Bart blurted out to his secretary. “We’ll give everyone uncut gemstones and then I’ll show a video on how diamonds are cut and polished and then we’ll have some lapidary workshops….” His words just sort of trailed off, kind of like all the air being let out of a balloon. Rosemary had turned to the calculator on her desk and was punching in numbers faster than Bart could talk. “Let’s see, that’s about 80 people, and if you figured only $10 per gemstone….hmmm… Are you prepared to spend $800 to make a point?” she asked. “I don’t think Frank Anderson will go for that.”
So, it seems Rev. Bartholomew West still has some work to do on his Bible studies. But at least he has a handle on how important it is to keep ones spirituality polished up. It is critical that our relationship with God be fresh and passionate. So often our spirituality is cool and distant, like an arranged marriage, instead of a passionate, life-altering love affair with God. It needs to be always fresh, a spirituality that comes from a life constantly being transformed and made into the image of Christ. “The reason more people aren’t getting into heaven,” Pastor Bart thought, “is because so many Christians are clogging up the doorway. - People are getting ‘saved’ but they’re not growing to maturity. They’re getting in the doors of heaven, but not going any farther.” … So we need to be growing. And oh, how our relationship with God needs to be attractive to those around us. If we’re so heavenly minded we’re no earthly good, folks will know it and avoid us like the plague. Bart remembered a testimony he heard from another pastor who told of an encounter she’d had in her ‘pre-Christian young adult years.’ Asked by a coworker if she had given her heart to Jesus, she bluntly replied “No, and if it means being like you, I’m certain I won’t!” Ouch! I hope that’s not what people see when they look at us.
Pastor Bart is certain that Jesus wants to present him and all the rest of the folks at Sweet Spring Baptist Church as something pretty special: holy, blameless, beyond reproach…a bride without spot or blemish…a diamond without smudge or flaw. And he’s pretty certain that a passionate, fresh, attractive, consistent and disciplined spirituality is key. It’ll take some effort, but oh how beautiful the results.
Emaline Feist and her ladies have the Turkey Dinner (and Alvin) under control. Harley Reese and Betty Hayden have their speakers lined up, little realizing God is going to use the Watsons in a way that will even impress Frank Anderson. And Pastor Bart is certain Cheryl will really like the Christmas gift he’s making for her. And he’s really hopeful that every time Jesus looks at the folks at Sweet Spring Baptist Church and what they are becoming, He’ll be pleased with what he sees.