Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Needed Change is Hard

     I don't know about you, but I hate change. I'd like my younger body back, people to understand me more, world peace and no more hunger, but still, I really do resist change. I'd gladly change most other people if I could, and I'd be tempted to change most of the world, come to think of it, but again, I really do hate it when I have to change.
    Which is a real problem if I'm trying to follow the Way of Jesus of Nazareth, because it's all about changing.
    This is why churches have come to be about believing and not following; it's just so much more easy. To learn and grow, we first must be open to change, in ourselves. We rarely are. And so we die without finding any new life. Good people, hoping for the best and believing completely in God and all that stuff. But not changing and for the most part, wasting all that Jesus of Nazareth was about.
    Example. Last week I helped out in a dinner for the 'needy' that was held at a large downtown church. Over eighty 'clients' were fed. The doors were opened fifteen minutes before the food was served. Everybody knew what to do and where to sit. The servers were all behind the table which was laden with good food. Grace was said, people lined up, were served, ate, and left. After all of the needy had left, the servers went upstairs to the main kitchen and had their own meal, on real plates, and had a fun time talking and sharing.
     There was nothing wrong with the evening. The servers were good folks doing good things, taking their time to help others. The more needy were fed and had a bit of time 'out' and most seemed to enjoy the meal and occasion. I know I had a good time and would be involved again if asked. I'd guess that everyone had a good feeling about the meal. We went home thinking that we had done 'our part' in helping others.
     But was anything learned? Was anything changed? Did we really do more harm than good? Did that small involvement keep some us from becoming active enough to work on the causes to the problems of our society rather than the symptoms?  Did anyone meet God in a new understanding or self-giving? I doubt it. Except for a few moments, there was no contact  between the 'givers' and the 'receivers' other than a smile, nod or comment in the actual putting of the food upon the plate. There was no sharing, no chance to touch in any meaningful way. Everything that happened enforced the old facts and stereotypes. It may have been nice and accepted, but it was certainly not the Way of Jesus of Nazareth.
    If that was an example of the 'work of the church', it is clear why churches are dying.
    Why couldn't the servers have eaten with the guests?Maybe a pot-luck with congregational members also?  Why not invite the guests to help clean up? Why not have the meals in people's homes instead of a barren hall? Dozens of questions come to mind. The answer to them all is the same: it would mean a personal challenge and change. Complete control would be lost.
    And so, we missed again the chance of even a glimpse of the Kingdom of God that Jesus talked about.  It's so sad that all that work and time went into the event, and is replicated dozens of times a week in most larger centers, but no real change is possible because of the simple truth that the nice people who are 'doing it' don't want to be vulnerable to any real change. In fact, they are keeping God's Spirit ever so small, even while they think they are doing God's will.
    Churches, when you chose to change your hearts, hands and habits, then and only then will you find the joy, courage and strength of God's Spirit. Please, pray and do it. The world is dying here and we need God's Word to be made Flesh. We need change.

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