dimanche, novembre 05, 2006

L'enfer? Ce n'est pas les autres

I got to church late this morning, and, as usual, sat near the back. We had a baptism at the early service, so the place was jammed. In front of me, a two year old lay on the floor, a copy of Clifford the Big Red Dog in her hands. Now and then she would jump up, brown eyes serious, to chat with her mom or show me the book and the picture of Dora the Explorer on the back. I wonder how children that age feel about how well they communicate with adults-hopefully they don't suffer from constant angst. A sweet nod or smile won't do it for a two year old. They really want to have some idea that you understand what the heck they are saying. All of that to say that for the first five minutes or so, Pastor Chadd's All Saints Sunday sermon got by me. I knew dimly that he had begun by describing the antipathy towards Halloween among various conservative Christian congregations-and how some churches used it as an opportunity to make their own "hell houses" to show visitors what eternity would look like for them if they didn't repent. By the time I was truly paying attention again, Chadd had gone back to the original illustration-but this time, with a paralyzing spin. What if we built a haunted house that looked like the hellish places of this earth? he asked. What if in the first room we had thousands of Tanzanian orphans without parents (like the ones St. Matthews supports)? As we went into that second room, we would see a family eating a Thanksgiving meal-with homeless Philadelphia residents in the shadows, shut out because of their poverty from participating in the plenty. Layering image upon illustration, Chadd concluded by describing a family which had everything...but drove by the church each Sunday on their way to breakfast because they weren't sure that they would be welcome. Instead of being so concerned with our fate in the afterlife, he pointed out, perhaps it was important that we remember that Christ called us to life-abundant life-right here on earth-and important to help others have that life, too. I don't know if Chadd intended it to be a pre-election homily-there is a public revulsion in the air right now against some of the outrageous hypocrisy of some religious right leaders (Ted Haggard foremost among them). Whatever his goal, it was timely reminder that in this country, with its Judeo-Christian ideals, it is time for us to repent, not just of our personal sins, but of our corporate selfishness. Thank goodness that as far as we stray from our own best ideals as a nation, there are individuals and institutions that remind us of who we are, and who we ought to be. PS- There was a wonderful, and appropriate comment on the Haggard situation from a member of the church he pastored in Colorado that seemed worth including on this Monday before Election Day-"God does things when he thinks they’re appropriate,” said Larry Stockstill, the pastor of the Bethany World Prayer Center in Louisiana, from which the New Life Church began in 1985 as an outreach mission.
“What’s going to happen in the nation?” Mr. Stockstill said. “You know what — I don’t think that’s your concern or mine. He chose this incredibly important time for this sin to be revealed and I actually think it’s a good thing — I believe America needs a shaking, spiritually." So, all of you Shakers, go out and do some shaking (prayerful) tomorrow!

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