Forgive me in advance.
I really don't mean to keep needling.
But, I've got to ask.
What did you hear in church yesterday? [If you are Jewish or Muslim, please substitute "synagogue" or "mosque" for "church" here and think of the weekend past and not just
Sunday--I guess I tend toward equal opportunity needling these days.]
I think the question needs to be asked. It is a serious and important inquiry given the number of people who attend religious services each weekend in this nation.
On top of that, we constantly hear these days that religious communities serve as the fountain of national values.
So, you can see that I had to ask.
What are we hearing when we go? What did you hear yesterday?
Was there any word about "the poor"? You know, the folks at the bottom of the heap today in the United States--the ones who will line up this morning all across the nation in places like our resource center downstairs to receive groceries for their families because their paychecks simply will not cover all of their expenses. Did anyone where you attended ask a question as to why their number is growing?
Did you hear anything about the health of the community or the nation? Did anyone raise a hand or speak a word on behalf of the 45 million-plus citizens of this country who have no health insurance? Any concern voiced over the disparities in health care delivery or access along racial and economic lines?
Did your preacher mention the children of low-income America? Was there a word of challenge or opportunity to engage our schools, to help as a community to see that they improve? Did anyone offer a word of encouragement to the public school teachers in the audience?
Did you learn anything about the homeless who wander the streets of your city this morning? Was anything said about the way our current system discourages the development of affordable housing or permanent shelter for those who have none today?
What verses were read from the Bible? Did someone stand up and read a text about fair wages for workers? Or, was there a moving passage regarding God's identification with the poor whom the Bible reveals God prefers?
Did anyone call you to remember the "strangers" among us? You know, the immigrants who find their way here looking for exactly the same thing our ancestors sought when they came--unless they were black slaves forced here against their will and even these Americans have made incredible contributions and have sought improved lives like everyone else.
Did anyone speak out for "justice"?
How about "compassion" or "civic responsibility" as people of faith?
Did you hear a word about "community" or was the morning line more about individualism? Was the message mostly concerned with personal matters that affect you? You know, how you can improve your life, how you can be happier, more successful and more fulfilled, etc.
Did anyone mention the concerns of "peace" in this time of terrible war and violence? Did anyone ask an honest question about where we are as a people in the world? Did anyone venture to ask if the billions now spent on making war might better be spent on making life happen for people on the margins of our world?
How about the city? Did you hear anything about the needs of the city and its people?
Did your experience direct your energy more toward the next life or did you find yourself eager to move out into your world to make a difference in your here and now?
Think about what you heard and sang and prayed.
Bishops, District Superintendents and Change
5 weeks ago