The Great Church Exodus!# ~ B
That spring Saturday afternoon at Beechworth's outskirts was far more inviting than the motel manager. A surly response met our every sentence, despite a booking.
After the grumbling subsided his demeanor improved. (It had to.) Digging down he discovered self-reserve, and politely he then ushered my wife and I into a brief history of this pioneering township. We were now captured by his infectious historical enthusiasm.
Between 1852-1857 Beechworth became an aspirational destination for Aussie gold-diggers. Its population reached 3000 and is again at 3000 this very day.
After a motel coffee (yuk) and some unpacking, I slid behind the steering wheel and we made the short trip into town. Keenly I observed three weary church buildings, vestiges to a bygone religious era.
The first was now an antique store (pictured above), the second had morphed into a village library and only the third offered religious services.
Beechworth is again a growing rural town for a variety of reasons. But why does this township still only support one visible church? After all, the population is the same as in its heyday.
A plethora of reasons may be offered but here is one, just one, no more:
Jesus transformed ceremonial cleansing water into new wine. Water dedicated to ritual Jesus changed into a celebration. Jesus' replaced ceremony with celebration.
My strongest suspicion today is that the empty churches still offer ceremony, while the growing churches want to celebrate Jesus.
After ceremony comes celebration, for Jesus leaves the best wine until last.
and the bridegroom said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best until last.’ (John 2:10)
Much of the Christian church is yet to catch up with Jesus.
"Religion is a dish to be served hot; once it becomes lukewarm it is sickening." ~ Charles Spurgeon
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