Wednesday, January 24, 2007

God's Country Club

Last Sunday after preaching at the 9:15 family service, my husband came up to me and with a smirk on his face said, "Well, somebody really woke up on the wrong side of the pulpit this morning!" I didn't think I had slammed the sermon that hard, but, well, let's say I was a bit passionate about the subject. I won't retell my sermon here (if you want to read it you can click here and do so). But, here's the gist of it: According to Pauls' letter to the Corinthians (12:12-31) being the church means recognizing that God gives people gifts, that God calls people together with their gifts and assembles them into being the church, and that when we are assembled together and are exercising/manifesting our gifts, then we become ONE body - and that body is the way that Christ is manifest in the world today.

OK - sounds simple and straightforward enough - so at what point did I go from preaching to meddling? Maybe it was the part where I said that being the church meant more than just showing up occasionally, more than just simply showing up at all. Maybe it was when I said that when people are absent we all lose out. Maybe it was the part where I said (taking off on Paul) that when we are really the church there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither child nor adult, neither black nor white, neither gay nor straight, neither republican nor democrat, neither "in the social register" or "not in the social register." Maybe it was when I said that if in fact we are the Body of Christ then we should be able to stand up as Jesus did and say "The Spirit of God is upon us because he has anointed us to preach good news to the poor." I said more than that, but the thing I was getting at that I didn't come right out and say is this: You can't preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free when you're trying to do that from within God's Country Club.

Now there are some preachers out there who favor a prosperity gospel- a get rich quick scheme version of Good News - "Just give us your money and you'll receive unexpected money. Just pray harder and give more and you'll get more." Personally, I think that's really bad theology and I'm not one of those preachers. Don't get me wrong - I don't have anything against good financial management. And I certainly don't have anything against giving money to the church or preachers asking folks to do so. It's just that I don't think that tithing makes God see you differently. I DO think that tithing - or giving proportionally - will make you see God differently. And that's more to the point here.

How we see God (as the giver of all good gifts), how we regard the gifts that God has given us (as puzzle pieces that are to be matched up with others to get the bigger picture), determines greatly our relationship both with the church and with the world. So that leaves me with one of my all time favorite quotes. William Temple, who was Archbishop of Canterbury back in the 40's during WWII, said this when talking about what it means to be the church: "The church is the only society that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members." 'nuf said.

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