Monday, January 23, 2006

Hypocrites in the Church?

Bumper Sticker Hypocrisy: A police officer pulled a driver aside and asked for his license and registration. "What's wrong, officer?" the driver asked. "I didn't go through any red lights, and I certainly wasn't speeding.""No, you weren't," said the officer, "but I saw you waving your fist as you swerved around the lady driving in the left lane, and I further observed your flushed and angry face as you shouted at the driver of the Hummer who cut you off, and how you pounded your steering wheel when the traffic came to a stop near the bridge.""Is that a crime, officer?""No, but when I saw the 'Jesus loves you and so do I' bumper sticker on the car, I figured this car had to be stolen." Citation: Adapted from Homiletics magazine (May 2004); submitted by Gino Grunberg, Gig Harbor, Washington.

It's not a scientific study on my part. But I've asked around. There are a lot of people who personally believe in God. They may believe in a personal Messiah. But they don't participate in organized religion. Why? Overwhelmingly they talk about "hypocrites in the church".

I'm always interested in what believing, non-church attenders think. If you don't mind, send me a quick reply. Do you go to church? Why/not?

Jesus thought hypocrisy was a problem too. The following is from Matthew 7 (via Eugene Peterson's The Message) "Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way of life - to God - is vigorous and requires total attention. Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincereity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or another. Don't be impressed with charisma. Look for character. Who they are is the main thing, not what they say."

May the way we live match the things we say we believe.

Grace & peace

Friday, January 13, 2006

'96 Contour & Prayer

I have this 1996 Ford Contour. It is the exact same color as our other vehicle, a minivan. They're both pacific green. People drive by our open garage door, see the identical color on two vehicles, and think we must REALLY love it.

Not really. When we purchased the van, we actually liked another color better at the time. Midnight red. I remember it well. But we didn't like the interior (beige or brown). So pacific green it was. We bought it new, liked the color enough, but loved the van because we were the first owners and the kids could all jump around, have plenty of space, and maybe, just maybe, reduce the traveling fights.

When it was time to purchase a 2nd vehicle, we had very specific requirements: used vehicle, low price tag, high mileage (which for a used car means it's been driven a lot/few mechanical problems [one of the many things I'm NOT is mechanically inclined]), good gas mileage, manual transmission, four doors, air conditioning (which has since needed a little work). Notice, none of the requirements had anything to do with the COLOR. Well we came across the perfect vehicle in our little town. But it happened to be the same pacific green. The kids get tired of explaining the color stories and simply respond, "yeah, they love the color".

I guess most used vehicles have their own quirks. This one has several (having to do with dashboard lights that don't work and a little flashlight to let me know how fast I'm going at night and a strange gear shift when going in reverse).

Another is the speakers on the passenger side in the front are in the door. And there is a short somewhere in the electrical system. Occasionally the speaker goes out, as it did this morning. I pulled into the garage but wanted to hear the end of the song that was blaring on the radio. As I sat there with the engine off but the radio on, I noticed no sound on the passenger side. I simply opened the door, slammed it closed, and presto! I had sound again.

I think that is a little like prayer and meditation. Sometimes in the rush of life, we fail to notice that the speaker is out. That we're not receiving the way we should be. We're so concerned with things that are broken, or getting to where we need to go, or the cool car that just passed us, or the funny bumper sticker or the irritating message, that we fail to realize we haven't been catching all that God wants to send to us. We need a respite, a sabbath, a chance to open the door, slam it shut, and pick up the sounds we've been missing.

In my tradition, hearing is a pretty big thing. "(S)he who has an ear, let her/him hear what the Spirit is saying." "How can they hear if no one tells them?" I don't know what your life is like today. But my prayer for you is that you'll take the time to be silent somewhere along the way, slam the door, and enjoy the music and voices you may have been missing just living on 1 speaker.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

God Weeps

"Where's my cd!?"
"Have you been in my room again!?"
"Shut up!!"
These are some of the phrases flying around our house on a hectic, gettin'-ready for school, tryin' to fly out of the house at 7 am.
(In our defense, I've heard one teenage sibling wish another "good morning", one child volunteer to walk the other to practice, and I hear some pretty good classical piano coming out of the last few minutes of solace.)

But my thoughts are not really on any of this right now.
I had spent the better part of the day yesterday with one eye glancing at the news reports about the miners in WV. I had hoped with everyone else that they had come out alive. When I got up for a drink of water around 1AM this morning, I clicked on the tv to see pictures of wild jubilation as family members believed they would get their loved one back. And then I saw the devastation as they learned 12 of the 13 were dead and the 1 who is still alive is in critical condition.

It leaves you hollow and sad. I had a hard time falling back to sleep in the middle of the night. I had to find something less serious to think about so my brain could be lulled to sleep. C-Span (or was it C-Span 2?) provided the audio monotony to allow me to finally drift off again.

As a trained theologian I tend to think about the transcendant, (or was I trained as a theologian because that's how I tend to think?) Either way, my mind races to passages of the sacred text that might be appropriate. The 23rd Psalm (God is pictured here as a shepherd and we're sheep, "walking through the valley of the shadow of death"), or Jesus standing on a high mountain, over-looking the city in his last moments before torture and crucifixion. (He weeps for Jerusalem, "how I would have gathered you underneath my wings like a mother would protect her chicks".) Or Jeremiah, sent to tell the "people of God" that they were about to undergo some pretty difficult times (having to leave their homeland as punishment for abandoning the covenant of the God who had offered to protect them). Jeremiah is so distraught over the news he has to deliver that he has been given the title "the weeping prophet".

The weeping prophet of a God who weeps. Somehow that's the picture I have in my mind today. That God looks down over the little mining town in West Virginia, (not so different from a mining town where my grandfather gave most of his life in Pennsylvania), and He weeps.