Sunday, February 17, 2013

Picking a Church, forgetting God

Selecting a church today is a lot like selecting a job, or a school, or new car.

Is it close by? Are the people nice? Is the pastor clever (and handsome!) Does he (or she) have short sermons? Are the sermons “relevant” – filled with neat allusions to TV shows, popular songs, hit movies and funny jokes? How about a good singing program, with a great rock band and a competent light show?

What about the facility? Is it large? How’s parking? Easy access from the highway? Does it have a cool cafĂ©, and a gift shop with lots of neat cross necklaces and pithy scripture-laden t-shirts for the kids? There are questions to be asked about daycare, after school activities, programs for teens, pre-teens, elementary school kids, toddlers, babies, support groups for pregnant women, single people, the elderly, and perhaps a few other groups we hadn’t even considered we’d be interested in.

But what has been forgotten in all of these questions? Oh, yeah, God.

Doctrine may or may not come up in this search. But if the traditional label is on the door (Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Methodist, Roman Catholic) then the affiliation will be clear enough, and if you were raised in one of these traditions, then you’d probably assume you’d be comfortable in a new church with that label, too. Certainly you won’t be challenged, and the words will always be friendly, perhaps eliciting emotional tears at the end.

Jesus was sent as God’s Prophet, sent to proclaim a message to the world, and it’s a message that has nothing at all to do with any of these glittering irrelevancies we’ve placed around the Church that Jesus calls us to be.

Jesus not only calls us to come and die when we take his Yoke of Service onto us in his name. No, if we serve God through Jesus the Anointed (“Christ”) he would call us to give up everything in the service of God.

Today’s Christians would say his command to the wealthy man (who likely served MONEY as much as, if not more than, God) to “Go, sell everything” and “Come, follow me” simply does not apply to us today. Surely, we’d be allowed to keep ALL of our McMansions, large SUVs, Playstations and Wii’s along with our kitchens with stone countertops and marble floors. Right?

When Jesus calls us to go out into the world and share the Good and Beneficial Message (“Gospel”) of repentance of sins and to seek God’s forgiveness (and give it to others without ceasing) and to be prepared to leave everything behind, surely he didn’t mean for us to leave our glittering “Mega-Churches” behind. Right?

And when we are called to “go the extra mile” and to give not only our jackets to those in need, but our shirts, too, that doesn’t REALLY apply to us today, does it? Surely we aren’t called to do Good Works in Jesus’ name, are we?

After all, the TV preacher will say, Jesus was just joking. Or he was just speaking to the Jews. Or he was speaking to an earlier “dispensation” not to those who live in our day. Or he'll say that we, as poor and pathetic humans, can’t possibly do Good Works (which God doesn’t like or expect from us, anyway.)

But if Jesus was joking, or his words are not relevant, why did he say those words would “never pass away”? Why did he tell us we would be judged according to our Works?

Because, perhaps, he meant exactly what he said, and wished us to become Jesus Followers in our daily lives, dedicating ourselves to Loving Good fully and completely and serving others with Good Works in his name, and be not just Jesus admirers and Jesus praisers, sitting in comfortable, padded chairs in expensive Mega-Churches. 

Selected Scripture:

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matt. 11:29-30

“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." Mark 10:21

And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9:23-25

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Matt. 24:35

“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” Matt. 16:27

“The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” Matt. 13:43

Jesus answered, "The most important [commandment] is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:29-31

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