On Pope Francis’ recent trip to South America he made a visit to Bolivia. While there he used a Burger King as a sacristy and a location to store the chair he sat on during the mass, along with other items used during the Mass. His attendants asked for Burger King’s help because it was an appropriate place near the site of the open door Mass and it had closed for the event. Afterwords, Burger King put out a facebook post which read, “Welcome Pope Francis, thank you for choosing the restaurant BK Cristo as your sacristy. Burger King receives you with open arms.” Another post had a picture of the Pope beneath the Burger King logo with these words, “There are visits that don’t just bring joy to your spirit but also feed it”
I see this story of the Burger King as a parable to help “church people” think outside our “church box.” Pope Francis has gained many admirers in the Protestant church,while he has confounded members of his own church. But one thing is unmistakable; he has brought media attention to his views and agenda. It should not be surprising that the Pope broke “out of the box” and was found using the BK before his Mass. So here are three learnings from the Pope’s use of the BK
First, the BK was used as his Sacristy. A Sacristy in special room set aside for the priest to prepare for Mass. The Pope saw the BK as a sacristy for his use before his outdoor Mass. He acted outside “the religious box.” The more comfortable you are in your walk with Jesus the more seamless it will become, enabling you to be outside the religious box of performance and posturing. Paul said of himself, “Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized – whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearing in Christ” (I Cor 9:19-22 – Message)
Secondly, the Pope being photographed under the logo of a BK, was for some religious folks almost sacrilegious. But not for the Pope. He was free enough in his spirit to be seen dressed in his liturgical robes under the familiar sign of a BK. Are we free to let our light shine wherever we are. Or do we restrict our witness in public. Jesus tells us, “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you a light-bearer, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine! (Matt 5:14-15 – Message)
Thirdly, can a BK freely feed the spirit. Of course not! This is an example of wishful thinking, hoping that some of the Pope’s spiritual influence can be used to promote business at BK. A visit to BK might bring joy, but it will not likely feed our spirit. But the point is – the Pope’s visit got folks at the BK and other pilgrims to think in religious terms about the condition of their soul. “Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out” (Col 4:6 – Message).