Last night I had the great fortune to go to my first NHL hockey game. It was awesome! The gameplay was so much faster and crisper than the minor league hockey games I had been to in the past. Even though the Kings lost we had a great time, and I’m really glad my longtime friend hockeypunk invited me to join him and his friends to the game. I don’t know a lot about hockey, but the guys I went with made it real easy to get into the game.
Another highlight of the night were the tix we had to a VIP suite at the Staples Center. It was a private suite with nice leather chairs, a mini kitchen, a flatscreen tv and some couches, and most importantly it had a great view of the game. I can’t imagine a greater first game experience than sitting in a suite full of avid hockey fans. My friend saved up for a long time to get these tix, and we made sure to enjoy every minute of this unique game.
One of the unique features about the Staples Center is the number of private suites available. There are three whole levels of suites dedicated to those fans that are able to afford to separate themselves off from the rest of the crowd. If the staples center were a double stuffed Oreo the suites would be the white goodness that makes up the middle.
Late last night I started thinking about my VIP experience. We went in a private entrance, sat in bigger seats, had a better view and didn’t have to deal with the regular crowds below us. We even had our own servers that would bring menu items to our room for us. If the suite had a restroom, I would have never left. We paid for a better experience, and we got it.
After a while of thinking about our good fortune, I began to wonder if we can fall in to the trap of VIPs in church. What would that look like today?
Giving special treatment or consideration to those who give the most financially to the church? Planning our worship around a few people that we don’t want to upset? Allowing only close friends the chance to lead ministries? Nepotism trumping ability or desire? ‘Membership’ over involvement? Established members over new Christians? Respect based on marital status? Age? Sex? Race? Title? Wealth? Past struggles or mistakes? Outgoing over shy? Making decisions behind closed doors? Letting those without the loudest voice speak the most?
Would it be a safe assessment to say that we’ve all seen VIP treatment in some form?
There’s a great story in the bible about a widow that gives her last two coins as an offering to the temple. Jesus makes it a point to mention how much more valuable her offering is to the kingdom than the offerings of those who are giving hundreds of times more to the contribution. He states very clearly that she has actually given more than anyone else. I’ve often imagined what this scene looked like. I get this image of men in the finest garbs of the time taking their dear sweet time to drop their coins in the collection like I used to do as a kid. My philosophy was that if I dropped my change in from a greater height, it would make a louder sound, and everyone would know that I had given a bunch just by the sound of my large (depending on what was in my mom’s coin purse) contribution. In this case, this woman who has nothing left to give, sets an example of what the Kingdom looks like in action. Thousands of years later this woman still sets precedent for our offerings, and forces us to rethink who is important.
The early church wrestled with VIP treatment quite a bit. From preferential seating based on wealth, to the distribution to widows and orphans, and the acceptance of those with a polytheistic upbringing, there was a constant struggle for equality. And it echoes through our history. Wealth, race, social status, ethnicity, even literacy has been used as a way to make some ‘more equal than others’ in practice in the church.
I think we struggle with this because Jesus showed a bias in his teachings. But it’s not our bias. He lifted up the meek and the downtrodden, the broken and the humble. He taught of a reality where those who were poor are actually rich. Where those who serve are leaders. Where money and status are obstacles to faith, not tools to rule. He speaks of a kingdom without red velvet ropes, preferred seating and VIP suites.
The Kingdom is full of those who will never be allowed anywhere else.
Going back to last night, one of the guys there used to be active in church. I remember sitting with their family one Sunday morning, and he was told by one of the men in charge that he couldn’t serve communion because he wasn’t wearing a tie. I know there’s a lot more to his story than that moment, but it echoes in my head every time I pray for him and his family.
I’ve never enjoyed a hockey game as much as I did last night. It wasn’t due to the outcome of the game, it was about being with people who thoroughly enjoy hockey. They’ve dedicated hours of their life to the sport, sacrificed and probably bled for the game. They are true hockey fans. They would have had a blast sitting in the upper deck without binoculars. But it was nice to see them as VIPs.
I love going to Church. I love being around people who sacrifice their all for others in the name of God’s love. They may be in the nosebleed section now, but one day they will have a seat at the feet of our Lord.
One love, one heart.