Car Jail


Last weekend I had the privilege to attend the National Christian Community Development Association Convention. I was excited to see booths and representatives from Calvin College, Calvin Theological Seminary, and World Renew right here in Raleigh. It was nice to feel less of a Christian Reformed Island, even if it was just for a weekend.
On Friday morning of the conference, I parked about a 15-minute walk away from the conference center. I was told me about a place I could park for free. I figured a 15-minute walk was worth saving $10 for parking. Friday came and went, ending with dynamic Pentecostal worship and preaching- all with a Latino influence. It was awesome!
The walk back to the car was prayerful with the adrenalin of Latino-led worship still pumping in my blood. But when I got to my parking spot at 10:00 Friday night, there was no car. My green Corolla was gone! Now, I’ll be honest, the first thing I thought was, “How much will insurance give me to buy a new car? It would be nice not putting my life into my own hands every time I try merging on Highway 1.” But of course, the reality of this bad situation hit. I found a sign nearby stating cars would be towed if parked there. So as per the sign’s instructions, I called Ace Towing. Sure enough, the Corolla sat in their car jail.
The injustice! Or to quote Gordon from Thomas the Train, “Oh, the indignity!” I came up with excuses: “What’s the big deal parking in that spot, it’s a useless spot?! Nothing else is happening there.” Rather than get a taxi and be out even more money, I ended up walking 2 miles through downtown with Harley-Davidson’s flying everywhere. Two other conventions covered downtown that weekend: the
Capital City Bike Fest and the Raleigh Tattoo Festival. I walked south to the unlit part of Blount Street near I-40. As I walked, I had time to reflect. “One thing’s for sure,” I thought, “I’m getting a sermon illustration out of this somehow.” But as I think some more, parts of me felt ashamed that I would even care about having to fork over $100 to get my car back. My car being towed was my fault, the sign was there. My car being in car jail was justice at work.
My anger about the situation ended up shaming me because of the types of things I learned at the CCDA Conference. See, the CCDA Conference is all about how to develop broken communities as Christians. We learned about justice, mercy, hope, and sacrifice. We heard story after story of true, real, and life-altering injustices. Simply put, this world is filled with broken stories of injustice.
My own hypocrisy hit me between the eyes. I got more angry about loosing $100 than hearing about a local stat I heard about the number of homeless people camping in forests nearby in Cary. Why is that? I think it’s because the $100 I forked over to release my car is personal. The $100 is coming out of
my wallet to get my own car back. But being a member of God’s Kingdom is supposed to be personal too. Jesus’ ministry shows us stories of healing, feeding, and visiting the oppressed, outcast, and vulnerable face-to-face. He showed us a Kingdom that is not some cerebral spiritual entity that exists outside of real time and real space. No, the counter-cultural Kingdom is personal. It’s so personal, God became flesh to make it so.
Is the Kingdom personal for you? If so, thanks be to God, because you are making the Kingdom tangibly personal. If not, then what is it that you need to deny, give up, or die to that will free you to make the Kingdom personal. For some of you, it may require you to enter into new relationships with people in this world. For others, it may require you to give up your own life as you know it today in order to know Jesus... personally.