How Long O Lord?

I probably put my foot in my mouth very recently, in a brief discussion about what to expect from a new parish.

“If they are not prepared to do mission,” I said, “then the rector is there just to start shutting it down.”

It sounds, now, as if I have no patience. This is true.

I certainly do not have patience with “keep the homefires burning” churches. They aren’t interested in fulfilling the Great Commisssion; they are interested in maintaining the status quo. And I am so not status quo. I am also so not take-it-easy, get-concensus. I’m not. Just know that.

But can it be changed? I think so; it’s happening all the time. The Holy Spirit is moving through the churches, lighting new fires. It will be up to ministers, priests, and church leaders to fan that flame and feed the fire.

I’ve said previously that the churches must take on mission. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned. The church is cool water in the desert, literally as well as figuratively.

Expect this, parish-to-be: I will change things. I will shake things up. I will challenge the status quo.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to give you some new liturgy, introduce a new hymnal or change the hour of worship. I might, but that is the least of my concerns. What I will do is redirect your energy, away from maintaining the building and the structure and into making change in the world, into feeding and healing and clothing and visiting. There’s only one reason for doing that, though.

Jesus told us to. He wasn’t polite about it. It was a commandment: If you follow Me, He said, this is what you will do.

How we do it depends on who we are, where we are and what we have. There’s no formula, no plan, no training course to do this.

We just must do it, and do it now.

If we don’t do these things, all the water of baptism and all the bread and wine on the altar is meaningless. “If you have a quarrel with your brother, leave your offering and go apologize. Then your offering will mean something.” The exploited world has a big quarrel with the exploiters; the have-nots have good reason to demand from the haves. Can we meet Our Lord’s expectations?

There’s no one answer to injustice. Each case is different. But here are my suggestions.

Reduce your consumption by the end of 2010. Sell a car, cut your driving, grow some food or shop locally. Buy nothing new unless you absolutely must. Stay out of shopping malls and big box stores. Dump your television. (Well, send it to recycling.) Don’t go on a travel vacation; stay home and volunteer at a shelter or food bank or training centre.

Set up a regular time for family and personal prayer and scripture study.

Talk to other Christians about how to change things. Organize a food drive or daycare at your church. Raise money for an orphanage in Asia, South America, or Africa. Go door to door collecting unwanted shoes and boots to donate to a homeless shelter. (I know this sounds weird and patronizing, but better that your old Nikes and Hush Puppies get some use before they are completely dried out. Homeless shelters can almost always use good recycled shoes; people without transportation go through them quickly. Call first and ask if they can use them.)

If you change your attitude and how you do things – if you draw closer to the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ sent as our aid and comforter – if you live out the gospel – then many things will change around you. Your family will change. Your neighbours will change. Your church will change. It doesn’t take money, but it wil take prayer, effort and sacrifice.

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4 thoughts on “How Long O Lord?

  1. He (the Father) cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful (John 15:2). It appears that [almost] no pastor can be too hard on their congregation in order to encourage growth.

    • Yes, this what the Lord says, certainly. Bear fruit; or thee has no place in the vineyard. There’s no complacency in the Kingdom!

  2. Sometimes just being there is enough. If a church closed, those attending would need to find another place and some would give up. The new pastor at the church I was going to shifted focus into missions and community outreach from daily Christian walk and personal responsibility so I left. It’s great to want to share the gospel with others but if you loose yourself in the process it’s not worth it.

    • I beleive that Christians must do both. A daily walk with the Lord is central, otherwise the church becomes a social service agency or a club. And sometimes a pastor wants to have a higher profile in the community, and wil try to drag his church along with him into something they are not ready for. My point is to listen to the Holy Spirit, and find the work God wants you to do, as a person and as a church. It can be big, it can be small, and it will change, but God expects nothing less than that we reach out to those around us in spiritual or material need.

      As for losing yourself as a Christian – oh, I’ve seen many burned-out priests and pastors and some secular people who gave all their energy to “helping others.” But often they are not discerning in the Spirit what the Lord is asking them. They are too concerned with being not just the Good Samaritan, but the Best Samaritan. It sounds as if you’ve had an experience that made you cautious, and I don’t blame you for that! Gentle as doves, wise as serpents…

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