So, I kicked Jesus out of church a few Sundays ago. He was in the form of a woman begging at the door of the church. We don’t often get beggars in the front of our church. He was also in the form of the 4 year-old child next to the woman. Jesus spoke with what I think was a Russian accent and was probably in her 30s. Jesus held a sign that asked for food, money, or a job.
I felt uncomfortable because the congregation shouldn’t be bothered by this woman on a Sunday morning. Didn’t she know that we support all kinds of ministries that help people like her? Didn’t she know that we help the Contra Costa Food Bank? I told her that she couldn’t beg in front of this church. When she said she was hungry I told her to come to worship and come back later during our coffee hour. I then remembered that we have a bin full of food for the food bank. I told her to wait and I would get some food for her. But, I think that I scared Jesus off, because when I came back with food and she was gone. I felt horrible. Jesus, please forgive me for kicking you out of church. I hope you come back.
Truly I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me. –Matthew 25:40
The first time I ventured out of a Roman Catholic church was when I decided to go to a large baptist church right outside of my house. I remember that the high school age kids had their own worship service aside from the adults. There were probably 100 kids in the service. I’ll never forget what happened when the pastor took the stage and said, “Let’s begin with prayer.” I, being a Catholic, knew that when you prayed you stood. So, when the pastor invited us to pray I stood up and bowed my head. It took me a second to realize that I, in fact, was the only person standing. Everyone else had their head bowed and eyes closed. I don’t think they saw me, thank God!
I was reminded of this misstep in worship this week during the ELCA National Youth Gathering in Detroit. It seems to me that most of the kids don’t understand contemporary worship because their churches don’t really do it. So, it becomes a semi awkward rock concert.
There was this point during some of the singing that one of the leaders was prompting the kids to just sing praises to Jesus. She began impromptu singing. I recognized this from my days as an Evangelical. I remember being led in this during my time in San Diego. Everyone would just start singing a song that welled up in their hearts. I would bet that most of the kids have never experienced this before. So, when she was prompting them, no one did anything.
I don’t want to judge the merits of doing worship that way. I have obviously cast my lot elsewhere. I do think that it was out of place and made me feel a little awkward. I wonder if there is a way for the music leaders at the gathering to better understand their audience?
This last week I was reminded that there is a professional photographer in the hospital who takes pictures of new born babies. You have the option of paying for a variety of packages and you even get to see a slide who of you and your baby. They will tell the new mother that if they don’t buy within the hospital stay that they will pay 10% more.
I am very uncomfortable with baby photographers in the hospital.
A woman who has just had a pretty intense, even traumatic, experience to her body is now forced to make decisions about whether to photograph her baby and then asked to pony up money for the pictures. Sure, this can be seen as providing a service to the parent, but it seems a little like funeral directors up selling by playing on the emotions of grieving families. I find the whole thing to be a little manipulative.
What do you think?
“We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.” -M. Luther, The Small Catechism
It is in our nature to try and make sense out of the interactions we have with people. We gauge all sorts of ques, trying to interpret things like words and body language. We then attach significance to these interactions, sometimes doing this well or maybe not so well. In particular, I have been thinking a lot about giving others the benefit of the doubt. I have been thinking about this a lot because I have been quit sensitive to people jumping to conclusions.
I have been dealing with this sensitivity by asking people questions when I feel like they might be not giving the other the benefit of the doubt. I will ask them, “How do you know this? Have you talked about this with that person? Did you ask why they did (or said) what they did?”
This line of questioning will often go in one of two directions. The first, in my opinion, is hubris. The person assumes that they can trust their interpretation without allowing me to question it. This person usually doesn’t like the questions asked. They dismiss me fairly quickly and continue with their own line of thought. I think they have too much self confidence, and I might be convinced that I am not giving them the benefit of the doubt. The second response is openness. The person will ask more questions, maybe starts to see that they might have assumed too much. Maybe they will back down from their unwarranted judgements. Sometimes, they will provide more information as to why they feel what they are saying is a good interpretation of what happened.
So I wonder, how do you respond when you notice someone not giving another the benefit of the doubt?
Boys will naturally turn anything into a weapon. Enrique and I knew that this occur naturally and thought that we were not really going to be buying guns or weapons for them. This of course turned out to not be the case. They now have arsenals that would make most militias proud.
Well, our two boys have great imaginations and like to play fight/fight…most of the day. They will take their Nerf swords and Nerf guns and chase each other through the house. They will put themselves in wrestling moves that defy physics. They are just active little guys.
I have only one rule about their fighting and horseplay. No weapons on or around the table. I believe our table is a place of peace and hospitality. All are welcome there. When we sit a the table it shall be a place of peace and safety. No one is to strike another. Sometimes one will try to keep a gun on their lap and I make them put it on the couch. I say, “No weapons at the table. Our table is a place of peace.”
I hope that our ideas of an open table extends to other parts of their life. I hope that they grow up with a deeper understanding of our table being a place of peace.
This advent our congregation will be gathering for soup suppers, holden evening prayer, and a reflection. We will be modeling the reflection on the radio program “This I Believe.”
One of the things I really like about this experiment is that we are not giving much guidance besides the suggested guidelines for how to write the essay. Mainly this is just helpful hints since the essay can only be 350-500 words.
The essay can be about whatever the author wants to talk about, we have not limited it to faith statements or beliefs about God. In fact, I hope people talk about politics, food, forgiveness, purpose, community, science, or whatever deeply held belief that they hold.
My hope is that our community learns something new about the presenters. In a community where people have known each other for a long time, I hope that they are surprised by what they learn about their friends. I hope that they are challenged and inspired and find themselves praising God for the diverse community in which they reside. But, most of all, I hope that hope is birthed in them.