Monday, December 8, 2014

Sweet or Unsweet?

The South is one of the places in this country where when you order iced tea in a restaurant they may ask you, "Sweet or unsweet?"  That, of course, means do you want sugared tea or tea to which sugar has not been added.  If one travels away from the South, one will not usually hear this question.  Tea, if it is brewed and not canned or bottled or instant, is normally served without sugar being added to it in the rest of the United States.  Finding iced tea that is not bottled or canned or instant is very difficult when one has left the United States behind and traveled into other countries.  Even our friendly Canadian neighbors to the north rarely have brewed iced tea in restaurants.  If you order iced tea, most likely they bring a can or bottle to your table and a glass you can pour it into if you are lucky.

When we lived just west of Tyler, Texas in the hamlet of Edom for three years back in the early 90s, we would often dine at a restaurant just across the street from our house called The Woodshed.  It was a country cooking kind of establishment in those days, famous for its mile high pie.  When you ordered your meal, you always ordered the pie at the same time, if you wanted pie for dessert, because it may not be there at the end of your meal if you did not reserve it early.  The Woodshed had many servers but our favorite one was a young woman who had a sparkly personality and was the daughter of the owner.  When she took your order for iced tea, she would ask the question, of course, "Sweet or unsweet?"  After she brought you your first glass of tea, though, she would remember what kind of tea you were drinking but she would usually say, "You're sweet, aren't you?  I thought you were sweet" or "You're unsweet.  I know it."  She was a lot of fun and was always ready to help you in any way when you were her customer.  That usually brought her very good tips.

Sweet or unsweet is the question that talks about extremes.  Do you want tea that has sugar in it and you do not have to add any or do you want tea that is plain, sugar-less to which you can add artificial sweetener if you desire?  The question asks about involvement or the lack of it when it comes to tea.  Do you want tea that you have to stir and do something to or do you want tea that is already prepared for you as you need it to be?

Tea is a bit like church at times.  We may not ask, "Sweet or unsweet?" of members but we often do ask, "Active or inactive?"  Are you involved with the church or do you just like it there and you do not have to do anything with it?  Some people just like the idea of the church existing.  They like the idea that it exists but they really do not want to go or participate in its ministries.  They like to know that it is there in case they may need it at some point in life but do not want the church to interfere in their lives until they decide they need it.

Some became church members and said that they would attend regularly, give to the church to support it, and volunteer to help out where needed.  Perhaps they did all of this for a while but for some reason they lost the desire to be a faithful, active member.  So now, they fit into the "inactive" category when it comes to church membership.  Their name is on the church roll but they are hardly ever seen at worship or church functions.  Some churches have solved the problem by creating an "inactive membership roll" on which they write the names of members who joined in the past but are not around in the present.  That roll is there to remind the church that those people exist since they are not seen in person.

Being an active or inactive member of a church is not as easy as deciding what kind of tea one wants.  It does not usually happen immediately.  It usually happens over a period of time as members decide that other things are more important to do on Sundays than attend worship, that they do not have enough time to participate in church activities, and that they do not need to keep the vows they made years ago when they became members through their inactivity.  Once someone has been absent from the church for a long period of time, it is hard to return due to embarrassment or the presumed need to explain one's absence.

One church advertised for its long, lost members to return to the church with a clever ad that said: "Missing Persons needed to return.  No questions asked.  Come home."  What success they had with the campaign is unknown but the truth behind it remains.  We do not need to know why someone has stayed away from the fellowship of the Body of Christ.  We only want them to return and rejoin the camaraderie they have been missing.  They are needed so that the Body will be complete.  As long as they are missing, we will never be complete.

Come home for the holidays!  No questions asked.  You are missed.

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