As I have been studying the letter to the Philippians and preparing the message for this Sunday, I have been mulling over this rather unusual and infrequently used word that this sermon series has given occasion to invoke – the word: motley (unusual unless you are still a big fan of the popular 80’s metal hair band with its namesake).
The title of our Philippian sermon series is: A Message for a Motley Church. I based this from the account of the planting of the church in Philippi and the first converts as recorded in Acts chapter 16, namely: a wealthy and religious business owner, an oppressed and exploited slave-girl, and a secular and blue-collar jailor. It’s hard to imagine a more diverse and normally disconnected set of converts to start a new community – a motley church.
The more I think about this word, the more I love it. I love how flavorful it is and how suitable it is for our church, Cross Community. When I checked Vocabulary.com (which I highly recommend for you word-philes!), this is what they offer as a definition for motley: “A diverse, poorly organized group.” I’m thinking, how did Vocab.com find out about our church!? Did they send in spies to our Sunday service? Have they been reading my emails?
But then the definition continues: “Think of a band of pirates, or the associated characters who became the fellowship of the ring.”
Yes, good folks at Vocab.com, I will take both of these mental pictures, thank you very much! Who wants to be Frodo? Samwise? We need an Arwen. I’m sure we can find a Gollum. Can I be Gandolf? I know one of our members actually looks like him, but the wizard’s staff looks a little like a shepherd’s in my opinion.
But let me continue with this great definition: “In contemporary usage, motley can be used in virtually any context as a synonym for mismatched, heterogeneous, or ragtag.”
I love it! I feel like that every day, both on a personal level as a description of my life, and also a pretty accurate depiction of our church – we are a Motley church. The more I think about it, this not only is quite accurate, but something to celebrate; it is both fitting and good. It is part of our identity as a gospel rooted and driven church in Rockville.
Only God’s prevailing and gracious call through the gospel can explain a community like ours. How else can you explain a community where an octogenarian widow with nine great-grandchildren, a teenage girl with multiple tattoos, a mother of seven children (with no tattoos), a quiet mixed-martial artist, a middle-aged single woman, a young couple whose passion is board games, (and the list goes on) all of whom are of different ethnicities and occupations – and all of whom have joined together to be a part of the same community? Only the gospel can bring such a motley group together into a community. I praise God for it!
So anyone up for a name change for our church? “Motley Community Church” of Rockville? (just joking in case anyone is wondering, but only mostly ☺︎)