I am convinced that the church is the hope of the world. That by loving God we love others, and by loving others we show them God. I am also convinced that the church has lost it's conviction and its back bone. Not intentionally, of course. But we've laid aside a passionate belief that God can change the world for a comfortable pew and building committees.
Central to the teachings of Christianity is the idea that people can change. God wasted a lot of breath calling Israel to repentence if people can't change! Try reading the Prophets and you'll see that God has faith in man to change and that we will when we see our mistakes. I fear that the reason we prefer our comfy pews is that it's been so long since we've changed. At all. We find our rut and we stay in it. Why change? Our programs are still running, we're pretty close to being in the black and the youth group is going to Chicago this summer.
How far have we, have I, fallen from the driving force of Grace? God let it drive us again.
There is a verse in Luke that I believe has been drained of it's potency. It's in the context of the Zachaeus story (Zachaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he!). Zachaeus tries to see Jesus. Jesus calls him to repent and he does. He repays all he can and more. "Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, for this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost". (Luke 19:9-10)
We quote this verse a lot. Preachers use it to "send us out". Good intentions, but not good enough. I don't think Jesus meant for us to usurp this word and use it to talk about non-christians in spiritual terms. I believe that Jesus meant us to help people who are lost financially, physically, psychologically... people who can't make their rent and can't fill their tank to get to work....people who have no home to go to, aren't they lost? People who have recieved so much psycological damage that they don't recognize their brothers or husbands or sons, aren't they lost? The marginalized, the stereotyped, the oppressed?
I heard of a church that recently sent out 2 mission teams simultaneously. The first to a small Christian College in Alaska, the second to a Christian mission in Tanzania. Don't get me wrong, they did a lot to support already flourising ministries and to help them in their mission, but they both seem like comfortable vacations to me. It didn't take a huge leap of faith, or sacrifice for them to go to these places. Alaska, there's a dangerous place-people dying for the Gospel up there. Tanzania, plenty of disease, poverty, politics to keep missionaries busy. It's too bad they went to remodel someones kitchen. That's real hands on. (sacracsm intended)
I understand why we seek comfortable missions and pews and worship. Deep down we do want God to use us, we do want to change the world, but we're afraid. We're afraid of the unexpected. Our culture has trained us to desire the expected, not the sudden. So we "rationalize" that by doing ministry in the familiar, be it the setting or the action, we'll be more "effective". It does make sense to have someone who's good with kids teach Sunday School.
The problem is that someone told us we have to be in a church sactioned program to do ministry. That's a lie. Holding the door for someone is loving them. Being kind to the cashier when things don't go right is love. Giving someone a ride is sacrificial.
I once met a woman who had obvious medical problems. She slurred her speech, had very awkward conversation skills, and used jerky hand-motions. Her home was a complete wreck. Her carpet and furniture were black because they were so dirty. The whole house smelled of pet urine. I wanted to vomit! She confided in me that she had had 3 strokes. I asked myself "who let it get this bad?". I wanted her to be my Aunt or my Cousin, or a friend of the family so I could say something and express my outrage to someone, but I never got the chance. I pray for her a lot. I pray that someone would have the courage to have an uncomfortable conversation where they address the problem. I could have asked, but coming from a stranger it would have been an attack on her dignity and I believe that was all she had left. Actually she still had her puppies, the one's that peed on her floor. The one's she can't take care of.
I end my rant with a quote from Bono:
"I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill. I hope so. he may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff. Maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them." (bono)
God call me out of my complacency and my comfort. Make me indifferent to my possessions, my comittees, my pew and make me passionate for change. Come Lord Jesus.