Thursday, March 20, 2014

Is it even possible?

Last night, I was in an Administration and Finance Committee meeting and I believe I left with a question that will keep me pondering for some time.  We were citing some of the verses in scripture, particularly those that deal with outrageous generosity and the call of Jesus to give and give some more.  We noted that these verses were difficult to reconcile with church budgets and our responsibility to be good stewards and plan for the future.

That got me thinking about not only the financial things that Jesus said...but all of the hard things that Jesus said.  Was he serious?  And, can the institutional church really live by the principles of faith that he put forth?

If someone strikes you on the cheek, can we really turn the other also?  How does that apply to national security?  How does that apply to protecting ourselves and our stuff?

When he tells us not to worry about our life or what we will eat or drink, what does he mean?  Should we not plan?  Should we not be responsible?

Was he serious about cutting off your hands and feet if they cause you to sin?

Was he serious about forgiving people 77 times...and how do we keep track of that?

Was he serious about "go, sell your possessions, and give your money to the poor?  And, if so, what does that mean for us as individuals?  Does it suggest anything about how big our houses should be or how many cars we should have or how many vacations we should take?  Does it suggest anything to our churches about how our buildings are used, how we address needs, and what our priorities are?

And, perhaps the question that haunts me most of all is "Is the institutional church capable of living the faith that Jesus laid out?"  I honestly don't know the answer to that.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Friday Five Again!

Here are the Friday Five questions...and I might be taking this one with a little frivolity.

1) Is there a film that so captured your imagination that you couldn’t stop thinking about it? In what way(s) did it affect you?

Sound of gave me a lot of songs to sing when I have had too much coffee...nothing says "caffeinated" like The Lonely Goatherd.

2) What religious/spiritual film has touched you? This could be something overtly thematic, like The Last Temptation of Christ, or something more subtle, like Enchanted April.

Sound of Music...climb every mountain, baby!

3) When the going gets tough, is there a film you turn to for distraction and/or to help shift your mood?

Sound of Music...I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad!

4) What is your all-time favorite movie?

Um, Sound of Music.

5) If you were to choose a film for viewing and discussion with your congregation, what would you choose?

Sound of Music...and we would have the discussion in costume.

Bonus: If your life were to be made into a feature film, who would you want to play you?


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Sorry for the rant....

I've been following a story in western N.C. about a high school student, Kalei Wilson.  Kalei is an atheist who wanted to start a club for like-minded students to organize and do community service.  I guess this is similar to what groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes do.  At least a dozen students had expressed interest in joining the club.  Anyway, this was posted on Kalei's page this week:

"It saddens us to report that due to the numerous threats and the verbal attacks on Kalei along with the vindictive witch-hunt to hurt the reputations of affiliated local groups and our own family , Kalei will not be continuing with the group.
We have contacted GoFundMe and requested they return your generous donations. They have assured us that your funds will show back up in your respective accounts within 3 to 5 days.
Your love and support are priceless and we apologize in letting you down. It was our single goal to support Kalei in her efforts to start the much needed SSA club.
However, we never expected our family and friends to be sought out and demonized. Please know that we recognize the importance of the club but we can not justify our involvement with the risk of our families safety and well being."
It does not take many clicks to find the text to some of these threats or to find the unbelievable vulgar language that was directed toward Kalei.  It makes me so incredibly sad and infuriated at the same time. What are churches teaching children that would cause them to think that this kind of threatening behavior is not only appropriate, but it is "Christian."  Seriously.  How does that square off with the life of Christ...yes, I guess you could say that Jesus called people names.  He called a group a "brood of vipers."  (Matthew 12:34 and 23:33).  And, yes, he got mad and a little violent when he turned over a bunch of tables (Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15, John 2:15).  And, guess what?  His anger was not directed at unbelievers.  His anger was directed at the religious people whose attention to self-righteousness kept them from being decent human beings.  That is a call to repentance for all of us in the church.

And, in Matthew 25, when Jesus does indeed talk about the final judgment, he does not talk about belief and getting the beliefs right.  He is much more interested in how we care for others. He says that those who will be welcomed into paradise will be those who fed the hungry, gave the thirsty something to drink, clothed the naked, took care of the sick, visited the prisoner.  That was his deal.  He took care of people.  He welcomed people that nobody else wanted to be around.  He allowed them to touch his life.

Sometimes I am just overwhelmed by how far Christianity (at least the Christianity that gets all of the publicity) has fallen from those behavioral covenants.  We'd rather bully a non-believer than understand her.  How arrogant!  We'd rather bully a non-believer than show her the love of welcoming her, by practicing radical hospitality, and maybe by working side by side with her in projects that could benefit an entire community.

Think of the witness THAT would have given.  That would have shown a group of Christians so secure in their faith, so moved by the love of Christ in their own lives that they don't have to bully others who do not believe the same.  They don't have to use strong vulgar language "in the name of Christ."  They don't have to draw the line in the sand and refuse to budge.

They can welcome others into the love of Christ by welcoming them into their own lives.  They can get on with the business of feeding the hungry, giving the thirsty something to drink, clothing the naked, etc. What a witness we could have if we stopped our obsession with judging others and left that up to God.

Sorry for the rant - but that article got to me.