Monday, August 29, 2011

Lavish, Economy, Radical = Love

Market personified
 I shudder hearing the market made into a person, aka "We will see if the markets like (don't like) the latest news" or "How will the market react?" It as if we have bowed down and offered our destiny and our serenity to the "market."
The market does serve very useful functions. It creates wealth and capital, funds retirement plans etc.... However it is a man-made creation and as such is fallible. Period. It is not a person. It is certainly not God. It is not a relationship. It is not love, or connection. It is a man-made creation and as such is fallible. 

I get a “daily communique” every morning from Emergent Village which “is a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” In our ever growing economic catastrophe, this one seemed relevant to many recent conversations.  

Strangely, their statement of intent seems oxymoronic to much of what is ongoing today. Many people talk about “mission.” More talk about money…or rather, the lack of it.
I told someone the other day – actually, I told several someones because I was fairly irritated – that I have never been in a parish that didn’t have money problems…AND I have never been in any parish that walked fully in faith.
I am quite clear about the need for money in this world we live in today. I am facing my own possible financial crisis in its ugly face as I write.
I know that salaries have to be paid, clergy pension funds filled, health insurance premiums met and then there are those pesky little things like electric, water and gas. Then there is the monster so many live with, the huge, antiquated buildings that require constant maintenance at normally high prices.
So what difference would it make to a parish assembled for worship if there was no water? Or lights other than candles? Or heat or cool? Or for that matter…clergy?
Yes, there would be many who would complain. But would it prevent the Holy Spirit from being present? Would it change the liturgy? Would fewer voices be raised in song?
In fact, with no utilities, there might be no need for a stewardship committee. Rather than a bunch of people getting up in front of the gathered and telling their personal stories of why they give, the need would already be evident.
Or, if some of the money saved from paying the numerous bills that so often seem antithetical to the idea of a faith experience were to be set aside for when that young couple with the two little children looking for work and a safe place to lay their head for the night…something right about here comes to mind to remind me about strangers…welcoming…if someone asks for your cloak give them your shirt as well…
Somehow suggesting that they walk on over to New Life Evangelistic Center just doesn’t taste the same in my mouth.
Money. It’s all about money.
We talk about God and bow down under the burden of money.
So many predict that the “church” is dying. In many cases, that is a hard point to argue.
We talk about what we can lop off with as little damage as possible so that the body doesn’t bleed to death. Yet how long can the body last with only a head?
The adage says that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Thinking of the church as a business is a good intention. But is it? Can it be a business? Can we continue to think first in terms of break down, get rid of, unnecessary, not needed, not breaking even…Free.
This thing that we do is not free. It costs but those costs are not necessarily in dollars. The gospel on Sunday, August 28 was about picking up the cross and following Jesus. That is not a burden. That is the way to life. But when we pick up that cross and follow, other things have to be set down. I think worrying about money is one of those things that has to be set down.
I had the great privilege of watching faith in action this weekend. I spent time with Becca Stevens and two women, Katrina and Sheila, of the community of Magdalene and Thistle Farms. If you do not know of the Rev. Becca Stevens or the Women of Magdalene, I urge you to do so. They are phenomenal gifts from God just waiting to share their love and life with all who are looking for a chance to dance a new dance.
Here are some of the things I brought home with me.
To heal it we have to first deal with it. – name it and own it.
We are called to get our hands dirty. – we cannot dictate from on high, we have to be involved.
We are not called to change the world; we are called to love the world.  – with our love, change is brought about. If we try to change things, we have a tendency to dictate what change is needed. We don’t often really know what that is.
Love heals. It is lavish, economical and it is radical. AND it will always bear fruit.
To worry is a waste of time. We cannot get weary – take a little time to rest and then go do good, do more rather than less. There is no time to be tired and no time to worry.
We need to stand on new ground, understanding that it is Holy.
Little girls do not dream of being prostitutes, addicts or being victims of rape.
“You can’t be willing to die for something if you are not willing to live for it.”
Worthiness is another word Becca used. We gauge UNworthiness on a daily basis. Is that person worthy of a handout? ‘He/she will probably just use it for drugs or cigarettes or booze.’ Boom. Unworthy. ‘They will just sell their bus passes for drugs or cigarettes or booze.’ Boom. Unworthy. ‘We don’t give them money when they come into our building because they can get what they need from other places in town that are in that business.’ Boom. Unworthy.
Determining UNworthiness is just not our job. Declaring all people as children of God worthy is.
Nowhere in any of Becca’s, Katrina’s or Sheila’s talk, was the matter of money discussed in relationship to worthiness. Rather, they spoke of Lavish, Lavish love. It costs nothing to manufacture. It is brand new every time it is given away. It is radical because it goes to the very root of Scripture – Love one another. Help one another. Don’t give leftovers – give what is on your back, give new, they said. Because everyone is worthy of that.
A woman or girl child on the streets is in serious danger of being raped, not once or twice but repeatedly. It doesn’t matter if a man is with them or not. They are in danger.
The questions we have to ponder seriously and intentionally are what are we spending money on? If it is not lavish, economical and Radical, maybe we need to cut it out. 


PseudoPiskie said...

I call the parish I attended yesterday my "heart" parish. It is the only church I know of that has no anxiety. If you ever come this way again, check out Holy Cross in North East, PA, just up the road from the Benedictines. They seem to be able to do everything they dream up regardless of the expense. And they tithe to outreach. Of course it took them many years to get to this place. I don't know if I can guide our parish in that direction but I'm trying. If our attitude doesn't change this fall, I may resign and drive the 70 miles to be part of a parish that works.

Barbi Click said...

Oh, PseudoPiskie, I so hope to come that way again. If it didn't snow so dang much up there, I would have been there rather than StL! :-)
WHEN I do, I will check out you "heart" parish.