Sunday, December 30, 2007

God is more than an Investment Option

I suppose that it is a sign that the "Prosperity Gospel" has made it to the big time. You know that you have arrived when you are the subject of a U.S. Senate investigation. Now we can watch Creflo Dollar on CSPAN II; who would have thought it?

Watching this development, I am saddened, although not surprised. On the one hand, you can only offer "overflow blessings" for so long before someone whose cup had yet to flow over would start grumbling about the lack of return. Once you start marketing God as just another investment strategy, you have to expect that some of the investors would become concerned when the promised returns did not arrive. No matter how good a salesman - er, preacher, you are, some folk just aren't going to believe that their lack of a financial windfall is due to the fact that they just didn't risk enough. Surely God would be a better investment than Microsoft, wouldn't He?

In all the sound and fury over this situation, I must admit that I am somewhat relieved. It is kind of like an adulterer who finally gets caught, or a junkie who gets busted while sucking the essence out of a crack pipe. The pain of discovery is mixed with the hope that maybe one can now move forward towards freedom from the chains that have led to the shameful predicament. While it hurts to see our theological "dirty laundry" being aired in such a fashion, potentially by people whose concern is less with maintaining the purity of the Church than with studying the money trail and how it can be diverted to Washington, D.C., this is a needed corrective, and "judgment begins at the house of God." Perhaps we can start looking at what we should be as the Church of Jesus Christ. What role does being a part of the Body of Christ play in our own lives, and what role does the Church play in our homes, neighborhoods, communities, etc?

I miss the days when belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ meant to me that I was part of something with cosmic significance, instead of just being another item on my family budget. It has been a long time since I felt like being a part of a local church pulled upon my talents, spiritual gifts, and self towards a purpose bigger than me. Even as I type this, however, I am struck that I have somehow allowed myself to become dull of hearing.

When I was younger, I felt, almost as if it were physical, that the Spirit of God was leading me in the path of His choosing. I may not have always did the churchy things right, but I knew that I was walking in the Spirit. Now, I know all the right things to say and right moves to make, but it sometimes feels like I'm just functioning by rote, rather than by His Spirit.

This crisis came to a head recently, leading me to to an old book by Andrew Murray. Entitled, "The Deeper Christian Life," it offered no "three steps to divine favor," or any other cliche-based mantra such as might have come from the recent NYT bestsellers list. Murray simply, but profoundly reminded me that the source of my strength was not a preacher, a message series, or a giving program, but in my willingness to sit in the presence of God, maintaining a real relationship with the Author and Finisher of my faith. Murray wrote it in 1895, and it is now in public domain.

Whatever Sen Grassley turns up, I hope that you will allow the Holy Spirit to turn up your passion to live in the presence of God, being a branch in the True Vine, Jesus, and living in the power of His resurrection.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Reflections on the Homegoing of Bishop G.E. Patterson

Watching the Homegoing Service of the late Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, G.E. Patterson, I am impressed with the sense that this was a man who truly served the Lord. For him, the office was simply another platform from which to serve Him. As such, he will be missed, not only by the members of Temple of Deliverance or of the C.O.G.I.C., but of the Church of Jesus Christ around the world.

Many world renowned people attended this service, including President William J. Clinton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Mr. Julian Bond. More importantly, people who might only be known by their neighbors came to show their love and fellowship. Usually we must choose between "rejoic[ing] with those who rejoice, [or] weep[ing] with those who weep. At this service, it was possible, even encouraged, to do both. It reflects on the type of ministry Bishop Patterson had, and the kind of seed he planted.

Having spent much of my adult life in COGIC, I saw, in that service, a lot of what is good about the "Grand Old Church." That joyfulness, even in the midst of struggle, is what I miss of the church, and I hope that I can take it with me wherever the Lord takes me.

When I pass away, I hope that people will be glad, not that I'm gone, but that I've gone home to be with Jesus.

God bless you all.