Tag Archives: compassion

Itch-Scratching Christianity

 

Text:  Mark 10:46-52                                                                                      

I’m sure you’ve seen the ad on TV where the elderly lady has fallen and is yelling “Help!  I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”    It is an advertisement for a Life Line button and support system.    Many people laugh at the ad—-and it is a little over-acted—-but if you have been in that position you would not find it laughable

    The word “help” is one of the hardest words for Americans to voice.   Most people would rather crawl out into the street than call for help.   There are many reasons for this.  

  • We were never taught how to ask for help and have few role models to follow.
  • We love our independence and the “American Way” is to be a “rugged individualist”, taking care of our own problems.
  • We are afraid to ask as we’d rather die than have people think we can’t take care of ourselves.
  • We are afraid that we will “bother” people with our requests. I have been told many times by parishioners that “I didn’t want to bother you with my problem, as I know you are very busy.”   To which I always respond by saying—-if I’m ever too busy to stop and share people’s problems, then I should get out of the ministry!

Blind Bartimeaus had no such qualms about asking for help, and his story teaches us a lesson about asking for help and the meaning of faith and trust.    The greatest lesson he teaches us is that God’s healing should lead to discipleship. 

 Have you ever been completely unable to see?    Although I haven’t experienced it, it must be terrifying. To not be able to see is to be completely vulnerable.   To not be able to see means you have to trust others to help you and to look out for you.    In one of my courses in  Counseling Psychology, one of the exercises we did to experience the need for trust was a trust exercise where a person stood behind us and we closed our eyes and fell backward.   It required trust of the one who would catch you for otherwise you would end up with a very large bump on the back of your head.    Another exercise asked us to blindfold ourselves and let someone lead us through an unknown territory.    We were completely dependent on the person leading us to keep us from stumbling and falling over various obstacles in our path.   It gave me a glimpse of what blindness would be like.

  Blind people have much to teach us about trust and faith—-and the blind beggar Bartimeaeus teaches us about faith and trust through his story that we read in the Gospel of Mark today.

Bartimaeus was a blind beggar.    He had no choice of what to do, as begging was the only way to provide for himself.     He was sitting by the roadside as the crowd  of Jesus and his disciples  approached as they made  their way out of Jericho going up to Jerusalem.    When he heard that Jesus was about to pass by, without hesitation and without any sense of embarassment, Bartimaeus began to shout:   “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”    The crowd around him may have thought that he was making a scene and tried to silence him,, but he continued to shout until Jesus asked that he be brought to him.   Bartimaeus was blind and the only way he could hope for a productive life was to regain his sight.   He knew his need, but notice that he didn’t lead with his need for sight, but rather his need to be seen by Jesus.  

He shouted “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner”  and not “have mercy on me,   a blind man.”  Bartimaeus seemed to understand that his vision was not only clouded but that he needed spiritual healing as well.   He opened himself to the possibility that his healing might be physical or spiritual, with an outside chance that it might be both.  

 One of the first things I learned in counseling psychology was that people have a “presenting problem” and an underlying “real problem.”    Bartimaeus seemed to realize that while his “presenting problem” was blindness; his “real problem” might be more than physical blindness.   He cried “have mercy on me, a sinner!”  He realized that Jesus could do something about the things that bind him, as well as blind him.And Jesus responded by asking him:   “What do you want me to do for you.”?   And Bartimaeus responded by saying:  “My teacher, let me see again.”   (not “heal my blindness”)  and Jesus responded:  “Go, your faith has made you well.”   (The Greek word for “healing” can also be translated “saving”).   God’s healing saves us.  And immediately his sight was restored and he followed Jesus as a disciple on the Way to Jerusalem in grateful response.    He had more than his eyesight restored—-he was saved by the contact with Jesus.    God healed him through Jesus both physically and spiritually.

And this is where we have a problem today.    I fear that too many Christians are “healed” and then just go on their way and not on The Way of Jesus in discipleship. Once we have been healed we go the way that so many people in Jesus day went—on their own way,  not on the way of discipleship.  Think of all the people Jesus healed—-the leper in Galilee, the roof-destroying friends of the paralytic; the man with a withered hand, the Gerasene demoniac,  the 7 lepers (  only one of whom returned to thank Jesus); and so on and on.   They were healed and went their way and never are heard of again in scripture.    Blind Bartimaeus was different—-he followed Jesus as a disciple on the way to Jerusalem and death and resurrection.

       And this is the problem that we have in our present times.     The church as the body of Christ on earth has been turned into an “itch-scratcher”.     There is a church I read about with a large sign in front of it that illustrates my point.

      One week the advertisement was “Lonely?” then come to our church.  The next week the sign said:   “Depressed?”   Come to our church.   “Anxious?”    Come to our church.   Every week a different malady.   Every week the promise that Jesus could fix it. 

      This is what I call a “Where-does-it-itch” style of Christian ministry.   You tell us, the church, where you itch, what needs you have, the  church exists to scratch where you itch.   An example of this is given by preacher William Willimon, recalling a conference he was at where the speaker, a well known television evangelist said:   “God wants to meet every one of your needs in life.   Whatever your heart desires, bring it to the Lord in prayer”.   He then illustrated this conviction of divine beneficence by telling of a woman of his acquaintance who, when she had been unable to find a part of her favorite red shoes, prayed to God and….there were her shoes, right under her bed!

     Our church here wants to grow—-and it is tempting to do as one church grown consultant wrote:   “Go out into your neighborhood and find out what people need.   Child care?   Elder care?   After school programs?   Then begin those programs.   Churches who meet needs grow.”    

     And many of our churches do this and wonder why the people whose needs they provided for don’t become a part of their church.   Jesus could have asked the same question—-all of the people who Jesus helped—-where were they?    They went on their way—many times without saying thank you to Jesus.  

What churches need to do is not just “scratch the itch” but to make disciples of those whose needs they are trying to meet.   What people in the world today need is not “fixing” but transformation as they relate to God and follow the way that Jesus walked                                                                                                      

Persons who have been touched by Jesus healing and have a personal relationship with God through Jesus,  cannot just be “takers” but also need to be “givers”.    If you have truly been touched by the salvation and healing of God and have a personal relationship with God through Jesus, you will do the same thing that Bartimaeus did—–you will follow on the Way.   Bartimaeus alone among the other hurting, oppressed, victimized, suffering, hungry ones, became a disciple.   He had the ability to see, even when he couldn’t see, what Jesus was really about. 

The story of the healing and the response of Bartimaeus invites us to ask:   What do I want from Jesus?   We look at Jesus, and too many of us see him as a solution to all our problem, freedom from our aches and cares, a magic want waved over our lives to fix everything.  Too many of our churches begin with the selfish invitation to let Jesus fix our needs and never follow through with the selfless invitation to love and serve God and our neighbor as ourselves.   Jesus makes a claim on our lives.   This is the same Jesus that said:   “He who would be first must be the servant of all.”    This is the Jesus who said:   “He who would save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.”    This is the Jesus who said:   “If anyone would be my disciple, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.”   The way of Jesus is the way of the Cross.    It is the way of discipleship.

     The real questions here are:  Is Jesus our Lord, or our errand boy?   Are we his faithful followers or only his pestering clients?      A better question to ask is:   What does Jesus want from us.    And the answer Bartimaeus gives us—-follow Jesus on The Way.  

     What is “The Way”?    

It is the way of discipleship.    It is calling us to a life of service.    It is the way that Jesus walked when he was on earth.   It is the way of LOVE of God and neighbor and not just yourself.

     There is a great gap between meeting people’s needs and calling them to discipleship.   The churches that truly grow are the ones that invite people to discipleship—-to a transforming relationship with God through Christ.   Amen

                                                                               

 

 

                                                                                                       

 

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Needed: A Cultural Sea-Change

In a recent post written about the mass shootings in America and the escalation of violence in our country,  I wrote that every time there is a shooting those who are leaders—mayors, police chiefs, governors, all the way up to the President of the United States say:   “This is enough —this must stop.”  But it does not stop—-and it won’t  stop until there is a sea-change in our culture.  What might that cultural change look like?  I’d like for you to think about that with me today….

One of the major changes must be in how we define success.  WE MUST HAVE A NEW DEFINTION OF SUCCESS.

Our current culture defines success as power.  It scorns failure, powerlessness, and any form of poverty.  It rejects all human vulnerability and seeks dominance instead.  Our definition and image of success is POWER.  Our political leaders in the current election are seeking to project a strong, secure, invulnerable image of power and control.   Dominance is what the American people are demanding and what Trump is exploiting  when he calls for “making America great again.”

What is the change in definition of success that we need?   It is found in the Gospel—the good news that Jesus brought, taught, and modeled for the world through his life and ministry.  We have thoroughly missed the gospel message about the Kingdom of God that Jesus brought as seen, for example, in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew (cf Matthew 6 and 7).  He brought his message to a culture like ours that was dominated by Rome.   The Romans worshiped power and maintained their power with the sword and with fear.   They punished those who rebelled against them by hanging them on crosses for days until they died by sword.   They called Caesar their god and among the gods they worshiped were Jupiter—the god of the thunderbolt and Mars, the god of war.  Into this harsh and fearful world Jesus brought a different way to live as a society.

The Sermon on the Mount praises those who his society looked down on.   “Blessed are the Poor”  he taught—not the rich but those on the bottom of the social ladder.  “Blessed are the Meek”—not the strong and powerful but those who are weak and vulnerable.   “Blessed are the merciful” —those who show mercy to the poor and vulnerable rather than trampling them under foot.  “Blessed are the peacemakers”—not the generals who wage war but those who seek peace over the destructiveness of war and strife in society.   “You have heard that it was said ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ but I say to you;  Do not resist an evildoer  If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other one also.’ ”  You have heard that it was said ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ but I say go you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

This is a completely different way of living and turns strength and domination way on its head. It is a sea change in the status quo. True success would be a nation where poverty ceases to exist; where there are no children going to bed hungry; where people receive adequate medical care as needed; where laws are passed to benefit the common good and not just the few who are rich; where civility is practiced and people listen to each other; where color of skin and language spoken and religion practiced make no difference; where those who lead are servants of all and people are honored for strength of character and not for the money they make or the power they have;  where love and compassion are freely practiced; and where people help others rather than scorn their helplessness.

We today have thoroughly missed the point as did Jesus’ followers .   That is why Jesus says in Matthew 21:31 that “prostitutes, drunkards, and  tax collectors (hated in Jesus’ time) are getting into the Kingdom of God before the chief priests and religious elders.”

This is not an easy prescription to heal a hurting and hostile world. It will be achieved gradually and only as we turn to God for God’s strength and aid.  Jesus warned his disciples of the difficulty of the changes needed to live in the Kingdom of God on earth when he said “the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction and many take it,  For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life and few there there are who find it”. But Jesus also told his disciples “with God, nothing is impossible.”

The New America???

If you want to get a picture of the “new America” and the “new Americans” go to a Trump Rally.    The large numbers of supporters he has for his ideas of what America should be and the actions they are willing to take to support these ideas are telling us something.    He has attracted large numbers of meaner, rougher, less civil supporters who are not interested  in social justice, rule by law, the homeless, the immigrant—-or really any human life but their own.   They are only into themselves and their wants and desires.   They think so and they have the right to think and do whatever they wish in their minds, without regard for consequences for the general welfare of the country.  

It’s an America that will carpet-bomb enemies with no regard for loss of innocent lives. 

It’s an America that will put other ethnic and religious groups into ghettos so they can be patrolled and controlled.

It’s an America with no regard for the poor, the needy, the mentally and emotionally challenged, the homeless men, women and children.  It’s an America where children and the elderly will die for lack of nutrition and adequate medical care.    It’s a selfish and self-centered America  where “compassion” drops out of our vocabulary.

It’s an America where the rich get richer and the middle class keeps getting poorer until finally there will be only two classes—the very rich and the poverty class.

It’s an America where Medicare and Medicaid and Health Care wll be privatized and run for profit  and the bottom net profit line on the profit sheet will replace good and adequate medical care.   And you will have to pay for that care, so the old, those in poverty, homeless people, children, and the elderly will just have to  “die” and as Scrooge said in a Christmas Carol—“get rid of the excess population”

We are going down this road and your vote for any of the GOP Presidential candidates will speed our progress toward the America described above.

America will no longer be what we sing of in our National Anthem—“the land of the free and the home of the brave.”   Instead, it will be “the land of power and control and the home of the fearful.”

Are we going to let this happen to our beautiful country??!!

 

 

Walking in another’s Mocassins

There is an old Indian proverb that says, in effect:   ” Never judge another person until you have spent a day walking in his moccasins.”     A recent update of that appeared in Facebook  as a sign saying:   “ Be kind to everyone, you don’t know their story.   And Ellen signs off The Ellen show each day saying:   “Be Kind to each other”!!However, it seems a lot of us have more of a built-in  tendency to judge than we do to be kind to each other.

For example:   We see someone in dirty clothes, carrying all he owns on his back in a plastic sack, unshaven—-and we judge in many ways:    We judge that he is dangerous; we judge that he’s probably an alcoholic or on drugs;   we judge that he is ill educated and uncouth; we judge that as a human being he is a drag on society.    Who hasn’t exhibited one or another of these judgments?

Another example:   There are few teachers who haven’t had to endure the insult of this little rhyme:   “If you can’t do, teach.   And if you can’t teach, teach others to teach.”    As one who both taught and taught future teachers I find this highly derogatory and insulting.   Society has seemed to always look down on teachers as failures who can’t do anything else—as evidence that they usually make very little money, which is the way we judge success.    They are people who must be closely watched by administrators and the state to make sure that they are “held accountable.”   We chide them because they have the summers off.  (they are usually working another job to make ends meet during the summer).   They are at the mercy of school boards and administrators because they no longer have tenure protection.

Now let’s spend a day walking in a teacher’s moccasins—–This person gets up at 5 a.m. so he can make it to work by 7 p.m. with a 30 minute commute.    He arrives at work, makes some coffee for his colleagues and then walks back to his cubicle where he begins to get books and supplies and graded papers  together and carefully goes over the class plans he has for the day.   He has a class to teach in American History, one in European History, and three freshmen English classes (English is outside his major)  Five classes in all with each class having an average of 30 students.   He teaches each class in a different classroom—one of the Freshmen English classes is taught with computers and the other two are not.   His classrooms are located in different spots scattered over a large high school campus.   He must prepare carefully because after each class he must run by his office during a 10 minute passing period to collect materials and books for the next class.   At the end of the day he is exhausted, but today there is more.    He rushes home and changes into a Park Ranger uniform, straps on his 38 revolver, and drives to the San Diego Wild Animal Park where he will work from 4 p.m. until midnight.   He arrives home after midnight and goes to bed and gets up at five the next morning and begins it all over again.   The next day  will be a good day—-he doesn’t have to work the second job—-but he does have a huge pile of papers to grade and prep to do at the end of that day.

This was a day in my life as a teacher at a high school in California. At the end of the school year I had to look forward to working my second job full time during the summmer.     It was during the economic period where inflation was surging and wages were not, and I had a family to support—-two children, one in high school and one in college.  So I had no choice but to work two jobs.

Things have not changed that much today!.    Prices still are going  up.    Teacher’s salaries are not.   Schools don’t receive the money they need so teachers do more with less and teach multiple subjects, some outside their area of expertise.   They teach them to students who have been told that teachers don’t know what they are doing.   That  if they “had it” they would be in “real jobs” amaking “real money” and therefore be successful.  .    The governor doesn’t trust teachers nor do the state legislators in Kansas.   Teachers  have no security from administrators who do things to them to get rid of them like my administrator did to me that year that I just described above.   The Kansas legislators and governor got rid of the tenure law last year.

WALK IN THESE SHOES FOR A DAY OR A YEAR  AND SEE IF YOUR CRITICISM OF TEACHERS IS STILL THE SAME.

I am retired now and sitting at the check-in-table at the Lord’s Diner here in my home city of Wichita.   The Diner is open 7 days a week to feed the hungry in Wichita and usually there are over  500 people eating each evening, including many children.    Many of them are carrying all their belongings on their back.   Look in many of their eyes, even their children, and there is a deadness, a loss of hope in many.

My wife sits alongside me and since I am diabetic, before we are finish I need to go get something to eat.   I reluctantly leave her and sit inside on the other side of a glass wall as I eat so I am able to keep watch on her.   (There’s my bias—-I think she is in danger because she’s dealing with homeless people.)   As I watch, a very tall, black-headed “motorcycle dude” with a scraggly beard and a handkerchief on his head came in.    I took one look at him and thought “that is a mean-looking dude”.    He came in and got his food and sat at the end of the table where I was eating.    I was surprised to see that the first thing he did after being seated was to fold his hands, bow his head, and I saw his lips moving in prayer.

We got to talking and he shared some of the story of his life with me.   He told me how blessed he was because he had just found a place to stay in a warm garage (it was winter) and he was better able to do what he liked to do.   As we talked his story unfolded that what he liked to do was to rescue homeless people who were on the verge of committing suicide..    He recounted the number of times and some of the ways he had reached out to homeless persons who were ready to end their lives.    He took them in, made sure they got something to eat, let them stay with him and tried to talk them out of suicide.  He said he was usually successful, but lost some.   He said he felt that was his ministry and I assured him that it was indeed a ministry—-a God given one.   He had found a way to put his faith in God into life-saving action.

HOW MANY OF US HAVE A LIFE STORY TO MATCH  THIS?

Do you still think that this man is a “drag” on society?  That he is dangerous and uncouth after hearing his story?   How many of us can say that we work at saving lives every day?   KNOWING HIS STORY MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

 

In My Thoughts and Prayers? Really??

“You (they) will be in my thoughts and prayers!”   How often do we hear  this phrase?   When disaster struck in the shootings in California recently,  how many congressmen did you hear say this?    When the school shootings in New Jersey took place, how many in our government said this.  And its not just group disasters.    Those who have lost a loved one for any reason are hurting.  For example,  when we see the son or daughter whose mother has  just died, aren’t these the words that we often say?  “You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers”.   It is usually said very sincerely, I’m sure (although with my cynical nature I often question that).   It is usually said very piously as though we have a special line to God—this is especially  true of many clergy persons.

I’m sure that most people when they say these words really think that they will do that.    My question today is—-how many of us feel guilty because we don’t follow through?    How many of us get busy with life and never take time for prayer and communication with God?    How many of us really have a prayer life?   How much do we think about what happened?   If we pray, what do we pray for?

My wife has a practice that she has taught me—instead of saying the words “You will be in my thoughts and prayers, she says—-“would you like for me to pray with you now?”    And she puts her arms around the person and prays for them—-for strength to bear the burdens they have, for courage,  for God ‘s strength and love for them.    In other words—she DOES SOMETHING

How many of our Congressmen and Senators said after the school disaster in New Jersey to the parents of children and spouses of those who died—-“my thoughts and prayers are with you”   —-and then went to work the next day and voted down proposed changes to gun laws that President Obama put forward because of his obviously being touched by the massacre and the  meeting with parents and spouses directly after the event?.   What the President  put forward might have helped avoid a future disaster.  He tried to do something.   It’s just “empty words” if you don”t try to do something.    Those children and teachers were not in the thoughts of Republicans who voted down a change in gun laws in obedience to their masters in the NRA—-and certainly not in their prayers.   These Senators and Congressmen may have a connection to God, but its only in their heads and obviously not in their hearts.

My suggestion as a pastor?    Don’t say these words unless you have an active prayer life and prayer journal.   It’s better to say—“Can we pray together now?   It’s better to do something for the support of those who are wounded and hurting— determine what they need and just do it!    

When my first wife died after a fall and being in a coma for a week—-I had a pastor friend who just sent me a booklet  “Trust in God” that was written for those who had lost loved ones.    He wrote a note saying,  ” this helped me in the recent loss of my wife and I hope it will help you”.    I went through that booklet  twice- over a two month period—-and give it often to those who have lost loved ones.    Those who are grieving don’t need pious promises that “I’ll pray for you.”   They need prayer now.    They are hurting now.   They need hugs now.  They need your presence with them now. They need help with their daily burdens they shared with their loved one that have now become theirs alone, now.  Find out what they need and do it—now!!   Please don’t ask those who are grieving what you ccan do for them—-find what need to be done yourself—and then DO IT!

God doesn’t need to hear from you!   God knows what has happened!    Be God’s servant  and do something that will help the person and reassure the person that God is very present with them in their pain and working through you.

I don’t mean to be unkind!   I know people mean well when they say “you will be in my thoughts and prayers” and that they often don’t know what else to say in the face of tragedy and death.  But I would suggest that your presence and a hug and a prayer with them  and doing what is needed to be done right now will always mean more than the words “you will be in my hearts and prayers.”.

What We MIss in the Magnificat….

As we near the Christmas Season,   we read he words of Mary, the mother of Jesus,  as she reflected on the blessing that had been given her to be the mother of the Messiah.    We seem to always  concentrate on the opening words:   “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.   Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed.”   But we somehow have missed what she then said about the coming Savior:   “He has show strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.   He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty…

In case we missed what Mary said,  Luke also reports Jesus reading from the book of Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth at the beginning of his ministry:   “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.   He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”;  and he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.   The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.   Then he began to say to them,  “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”   (Luke 4:18-21)

Jesus life and ministry was a mission dedicated to carrying out the above.    How have we as Christians through the centuries failed to see what Jesus was about?   How have we missed the major thrust of his ministry?     Why have we utterly failed to continue this mission?    

As I approach the celebration of the birth of Jesus, I look out on my own state (Kansas) which is supposed to governed by professed Christians.    I see poverty that is growing worse each year.   I see adults working two and three jobs to provide for their children and not being able to do so because of low wages and part time employment with no benefits.  I see a state legislature and governor who have refused to extend Medicaid to thousands who have no health insurance who are suffering needlessly because of that. I see a governor and legislator who have refused to raise the minimum wage so that working people can live on what they earn.    I see children and adults who are homeless.   I see thousands of children going to bed hungry each night, if they have a bed.   AND I ASK—-WHERE ARE THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS?   Why have they not stood up to the powers that cause all of this suffering?   Where is the voice of “the crucified one” demanding that those who have the power to change this picture do so?    Where are we?

We are sitting in comfortable churches.   We have joined the “powers that be” rather than bringing them down to deal with the desperate condition of many in our state.    Not a single voice has been heard from the church and Christians demanding that Medicaid be extended.   Not a single church has demanded that the minimum wage be raised.   The church and Christians have remained silent in the face of the poverty and suffering all around them.

The Magnificat speaks of the change that the society will experience because of the birth of the Messiah.   Centuries later, we who claim to be the “body of Christ” have not brought that change about.    Rather we have joined the forces of the powerful that are causing those conditions of poverty and helplessness to continue and to grow.

WE’VE MISSED JESUS’ ENTIRE POINT, FELLOW CHRISTIANS!!!

 

Termites in our Churches

Do our churches have “church termites”?   Are you one of them?   Termites eat away the structure of a house from within.   Not until the structure is almost a shell does their work begin to show.   “Church termites” are very similar.   Alert!  Alert!   Their work is beginning to show!    Many of our churches are just shells of what they once were.   They have gone from being vibrant, sturdy, and involved  structures meeting the needs of their congregations, community and world, to just shells of what they once were.

What happened?  Of course to answer that question completely  would require a book, but I want to focus on a very subtle thing that has caused much of the destruction of the church—-the existence of “church termites“.  The question is:   What is a “church termite”.   You may not have to look any further than your own mirror to see one!

Just look for a “comfortable Christian” and you’ve found one!   Most churches are full of them. Here are a few ideas of what to look for to find them:

Look for a church that does not challenge its congregation to its mission of practicing the Great Commandment-–in fact that has lost memory of what it’s real mission is about. ( See Matthew 22:36-39 for the great commandment in case your memory is poor in this area).   Carrying out the Great Commandment is not a comfortable thing to do.   The challenge of “loving your neighbor as yourself”  is not a comfortable challenge.   It is a formidable challenge.

Look for a church members who don’t have time to do Bible Studies because they must do other things they consider more important—-almost anything is more important!  The church usually has lowest priority  among the demands for their time and talent and money instead of highest priority.  Termites at work!

Look for church budgets passed by termites that spend most of the money given to the church upon their congregations and very little  on community outreach, social justice for the homeless, or carrying out their mission of proclaiming the good news Jesus proclaimed.      These budgets  prefer making sure everyone of their congregation is sitting in comfortable pews in air conditioned comfort once a week to going into the community in the name of Jesus every day and showing by their life the Way of Jesus.   They prefer improvements to their buildings.   They spend thousands in maintenance and upkeep of their building   and pennies, in comparison, for Week of Compassion,  community outreach,  the poor, the homeless, the outcasts.   More termites at work!

Look for churches who have no children’s Christian  education program because everyone is too busy with other things to teach children about Jesus.   All those people who are too busy are seeking their own comfort, not following Jesus as a disciple, and  are among the termites chewing away on their church.

Jesus did not call his disciples to a life of comfort sitting in a padded pew with air conditioning  and listening to beautiful music.   He called his disciples to serve, telling them that “the greatest among you will be the servant of all.”  .   He called them to follow him into the world of his day.   To heal.   To help.  To proclaim God’s love for all of his creation and his children.   Jesus did not tell them that to be his disciple they had to make sure they were comfortable.   He said that “if you  would be my disciple, you must take up your cross daily  and follow me.”   Carrying a cross is not comfortable.   Following Jesus is not comfortable as he went a lot of places we would prefer not to go.   Most of the members of our congregations would take this challenge by saying—-well, if that’s what you want—count me out!   They are “church termites”.

This attitude of seeking “my comfort” is destroying our churches.   More and more we see the effect of this attitude as our church buildings remain intact and solid but the congregations dwindle and eventually die within their comfortable buildings as the membership thinks only of their comfort and not their mission as a church.   For the church is not a building—it is a living, breathing body of people who seek to become disciples and followers of Jesus, the Christ.   If that is not their purpose then they have no purpose.

Where are your priorities?    Are you a “comfortable Christian”?     Or are you one of the termites that is destroying the church from within?