Monday, July 18, 2005

So, what did you hear in church yesterday?

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.


owldog said...

I can honestly say Yes to all your questions about what we heard at church yesterday. It seems like our preacher JS knew what questions you would be asking today :)

I am trying to remember everyday how I treat EVERY PERSON is what matters to GOD above all else.

Becky said...

Wow- we sure did talk about all those things at RE yesterday and it was really good to think about the strangers, the poor, the homeless among us and how to welcome them as family. Now the next question is...can we turn "talk" into "action"?

Larry James said...

Thankfully and no surprise here when it comes to John Siburt and the Richardson East Church of Christ! John's steady reading, living and interpreting the words of the Bible will continue to produce an incredible result. I'm wondering if maybe he and RECC provide a refreshing exception to what is heard most of the time in religious gatherings. Maybe I am wrong. I hope others will tell me so if I am.

Anonymous said...

I can say I did hear those things at church yesterday. I problem is that on Monday morning the same people I passed by at Luby's on Sunday are the same folks (Christians) who continuely display unjust attitudes, feelings, and actions towards people who are poor and/or minorities and forget what Jesus commanded, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." (Matthew 19:19) Consequently, in this parable in Matthew 19 he is speaking to the rich man. He then has to give further instruction by stating in v. 21 "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven..."

IBreakCellPhones said...

Turning your argument around, how many heard from their pulpit about:

The slaughter of (estimated) 25,000 children over the last week in the US?

Those fighting to change the definition of marriage?

Any call to do anything outside yourself?

I know that there have been some churches that have really overstepped the line (like East Waynesville Baptist Church, where members who didn't support George Bush for President were excommunicated) but in all too few churches are we called to affect our community in any way?

owldog said...

I break cell phones, what were you referring to when you said 25,000 children slaughterd in US over weekend?

IBreakCellPhones said...

In 2003, there were about 1.3 million abortions in the United States alone. Divide that by 52 weeks in a year and you get 25,000.

So, averaging out for the whole year, during the 1.5 hour worship service, about 223 babies were killed.

Molech is having a grand old time.

Anonymous said...

Read Exodus 21:22-25. What might one imply about life and its relative value from this?

MarkS said...

Murdered babies go straight to the arms of God. Poor people (and all else) who don't know Jesus die and face a horrific judgement. The time left I have on earth will be spent trying to help people who don't otherwise have a chance at heaven know the One who can take them there. The liar, glutton, addicted, adulterer and abortionist all need the message of Jesus from people who demonstrate the life of Jesus. He came not to judge, but to save.

Re: Ex 21, Jesus said "eye for eye" doesn't work (Matt 5:38f). Instead, he tells his people to get over injustices done to them for the sake of the Kingdom. His people don't focus on the sins of others, but on the Source of healing. Seeking revenge will send one to an early grave.

Anonymous said...

MarkS, you missed Anonymous' point. In the Ex. 21 reading given, can you determine whose life seems to have the most value relatively? Based on the punishment decreed, is it the mother's or the unborn child's? This is the only biblical passage that seems to get at the core question.

Milton Stanley said...

Excellent post, Larry. I wrote about it on my blog today. Peace.

Jana said...

Very challenging questions. Ones that I should be asking of myself every day!