Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rethinking Church

Yesterday I reflected on a God who sees a hungry raven and is moved to help. Today the gospel lection shows Jesus trying to get away by himself. But the crowds find him, and when he sees them, he is moved with compassion.  He heals their sick and later feeds the entire bunch, once again revealing a God who is moved by need. Yet the Church often seems focused more on other issues. The recent crack-down on nuns by the Vatican seems to me to place doctrine well above compassion, and that does not seem to be the God revealed in Jesus.

Not that there is any need to single out Roman Catholics. We Presbyterians have been engaged in theological and doctrinal wrangling over ordination standards for decades now. It has most certainly diverted time, energy, and money from missions of compassion and from acting as Jesus did.

Of course Jesus wasn't just saccharine sweet and nice. He scared people because he looked like a threat to those in power. But we Presbyterians are mostly a threat to ourselves.

It seems to me that the Church is very often focused mostly on itself. I don't want to diminish the considerable good done by Christians and the Church, but if you look at the typical church budget, you will see that it is mostly directed inward. It goes to fund worship that we like, music that we prefer, programs for our kids, fellowship events for us, and so on. Some of this is essential activity in cultivating a faith community, but a lot of it is a consumerist driven desire for the church to "meet my needs."

My own congregation is fairly typical on this. We have many wonderful things that we do, but when push comes to shove, we are driven more by what we want than the example of Jesus or what God wants. And I'm embarrassed to say the percentage of our budget that actually goes to mission.

We Christians say that we are the body of Christ, but I sometimes wonder what sort of glimpse of Jesus people get when they encounter us.  And that makes me wonder if we don't need to do some serious rethinking on what it means for us to be the Church.

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