If we had a dime from every car that does a u-turn in our parking lot we would have more than enough money to pay to replace the amp on the organ that we approved during the congregational meeting last Sunday! Perhaps I am guilty of a bit of hyperbole here, but you would be surprised by the number of cars who pull into the church parking lot to turn around. Many do a “k-turn” by pulling into the driveway than backing into the street, others pull into a parking spot or turn a complete 180 degrees driving through the empty parking spaces and still others actually drive around the circle at the front of the church! I guess because of our location, Hilltop is a good place to come if you want to change course and travel in a different direction.
Hopefully, that is true not only of the parking lot but of the congregation, as well. At Hilltop we strive to be a place and a people, where making a mistake does not necessitate the wearing of a scarlet letter, or a halo of shame. At our best, we are a fellowship of followers of Jesus Christ, who are striving to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. At times we do both well, and others neither, but along the way we give thanks for the grace of God, by which we are forgiven and redeemed. As a forgiven and redeemed people, we aspire to generously share the grace that we have so lovingly received.
For years the criticism of “the church,” especially the evangelical church, is that it (we) is hypocritical, we say one thing but then do the opposite. As is often the case the stereotype is born from elements of the truth. The church has been critical of other’s behavior, conduct and even sin, yet denied our own sinful behavior and conduct. We have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the discrimination and suffering of our sisters and brothers. We have neglected to care for and nurture “the least of these,” as Jesus both did and commanded, “for as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.” We have not loved our neighbors, as we want to be loved, and for that we must confess and apologize. And the church is a great place to do just that, for the church, at its best, is a terrific place to do a u-turn, to change directions, to start anew.
For the Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ came that we, each and every one of us, might have a new life, a new start, a change of direction, where we can turn from our old life and into a new life with him. For most of us this u-turn is not a “one and done” deal. Instead, it is a daily, hourly, or even by the minute turning from our old sinful, selfish life, toward a life lived in a loving relationship with God and God’s creation. That is the u-turn that the congregation at Hilltop was established to invite our neighbors to do, to turn into a new life with Christ. Little did we know that over 50 years ago when they built this new church building on the corner of Hicksville Road and West Street, that we would also be a place where people would come to do a u-turn in their vehicle. Hilltop is a great place to do a u-turn.