Years ago a British television company held a nation-wide competition to find ‘Britain’s ideal couple.’ After their extensive search they settled on a nice pair of lovebirds who were engaged to be married. This couple was interviewed numerous times happily sharing their secrets to a successful relationship. A television program about the couple was produced and the day before it aired, the situation changed in an unexpected way. The young woman was smacked in the face by her fiancé at a concert. This, coupled with her discovery that he was already married to a woman named Barbara, prompted her to call off the engagement. Still, the program was broadcast as planned. We are talking about British television, after all. (Information from Cannibals in the Cafeteria and other Fabulous Failures, by Stephen Pile).
So where do you find the “Ideal Couple?” I’m not sure you do. Of course, I’m speaking with some experience here. Patsy and I are preparing to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, and by the time you read this we may have already done so. But I don’t really consider us to be an “Ideal Couple.” I’m certainly a flawed husband, and I chalk up our years of marriage to finding a good partner who’s much better than I deserve. Marriages, like any relationship, are seldom ideal. We make them work by working to make them.
This means that most marriages don’t succeed because the people in them are perfect, but because both parties involved are committed to something bigger than either of them. It could be the marriage itself, it could be family, it could be faith. But when two people are committed to something both hold important, they have a good reason to work and live together. While there are no worthy ideal couples, there are couples who pursue worthy ideals.
All of this is true of churches as well. If you’re looking for an “ideal church” I don’t think that Maple Avenue is the right choice for you. We’re full of imperfect people, struggling to live our faith, sharing our life together sometimes successfully sometimes not. We can step on each other’s toes and rub each other the wrong way. We don’t all like the same things, we don’t vote the same ways, and we enjoy different kinds of food and listen to different kinds of music. Yet, here we are, working together in ministry and service.
We’re not together because we’re ideal people. We’re together because of the ideals of Jesus Christ. We believe in loving and nurturing others, as he did. Like him, we build relationships through shared meals. And through our own unique encounters with his risen presence, we have been healed and made whole.
I’m thankful for my 40 years of married life, not because it’s been ideal, but because it’s been meaningful and a blessing to me and others. And I’m thankful for Maple Avenue United Methodist Church for the same reasons.
I’m a less-than ideal husband, working as a less-than-ideal pastor, in a less-than-ideal congregation. All of this is happening in a less-than ideal neighborhood located in a less-than-ideal city. And if you’re a less-than-ideal person who would like to associate with other less-than-ideal people as we pursue the worthy ideals of Jesus Christ, we’re glad to have you on board!