When I was appointed as the new minister to St.Andrew's Cronulla, a beach-side parish south of Sydney, Australia, I put a notice on the church notice board: "Under New Management - Same Boss." I do like church notice boards, but sometimes they are somewhat deceptive, perverse even. I don't mean the service times and the minister's name and telephone number. Although, sometimes this is perverse. I was out in the country on one occasion and attempted to attend the Sunday morning service. I believed their notice board, but then, as I was informed, "We haven't had a service at that time for years". I didn't ask the obvious. Yes indeed, perverse. But as I said, it's not that type of perverse I'm thinking of.
Nor is it the perverse "come and join us" type of notice; the "we are the friendly community church who wants your rotunda on the pew and your money in the plate - we want you here and certainly not down the road at that other church." A newly converted person, with a mind still fresh and unscrewed, once made this comment about her local churches vying for the "really friendly church" award. "The constant selling of the Christian church gives the impression that the product is lousy." Yes indeed, perverse.
Nor is it the text on the blackboard type notice. Funny thing is; I always read those texts. Nothing perverse about scripture. I served for a time at a branch church with a congregation of about five people, and what a wonderful little church it was. Preach any longer than twenty minutes and the urn would boil over in the kitchen and steam would flood out into the church. Anyway, every week there was a new text on the church notice-board. It was a loving ministry by an elderly member of the congregation. Yes, nothing perverse in that.
The notices that I think are perverse are the "All Sinners Go To Hell" type notice. This is the notice which says "we are in and you are out." It's the kind of notice that sticks its finger up at the rest who drive past. It's the "I'm all right Jack" notice. Not wanting to be constantly placarded as a leper, most people return the gesture and avert their eyes.
How then did Jesus placard the gospel? He certainly didn't condemn the lost, but he did condemn the churchies of his day - he loved to expose religious hypocrisy. Jesus came as a doctor to the sick; he spoke of God's mercy and acceptance for the lost and broken hearted, of forgiveness for the asking. As Jesus said of humanity, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."