18 January 2006

What Happened Sunday ...

So ... last Sunday (Jan. 8) we began a series on the minor prophets at my church. They are called minor only because they wrote short books. We began our series with a bang of a service where there were 12 prophet stations (with a nod to Grace for the idea) where we all got a taste of each prophet and his message brought to us by a different member of our church.

This immediately past Sunday it was my turn to give the message or "content" (or "non-sermonic exploration" as we irreverently call it). I say "turn," but I asked for this Sunday, because it was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday and I loved that man and I wanted the chance to give a message on his birthday. I didn't care what prophet got put on that Sunday. The Design Team (this is the team that I'm a part of that puts together the service each week) gave me ... or maybe God gave me ... the book of Amos. So I read Amos. And I read Amos again and I loved Amos. Then I read MLK's speeches again and my universe shifted. Suddenly I knew where his vision of justice came from!! It wasn't all from Jesus (although certainly he started there). It wasn't all from Gandhi (although that's where he got some of his non-violence from). But Martin Luther King, Jr's vision of justice and mercy and racial harmony came out of the Old Testament and it came from the prophets!! And suddenly I realized that Jesus had been preaching a very old message all along. It was nowhere near as revolutionary as I'd always thought it was. What I mean is that I knew it wasn't that revolutionary, but now I **knew** it!! Does that make any sense??

Dang! I love it when God grabs your shoulders like that, shakes you up and makes you see things fresh again. So I wanted my peeps to hear it that way too. So I tried to "channel" Amos to grab their attention and get them to hear what God might be crying out about in the world today. So what follows is the "rant" I opened up with to give my church the experience of having a prophet in their midst. If you should stumble through here and don't know me, please try to understand the context of what you are about to read. Please make sure you've read the Book of Amos before you comment here. I am not necessarily advocating all of this.

AMOS:

God roars out of Israel
He shouts from the rooftops of Jersusalem
Fields dry up and mountains crumble when the voice of the Lord roars past ...

Hear the voice of the Lord in the Lion’s roar!

1. I’ve told Wal-Mart 3 times and NOW they are on my last nerve! I am just DONE with them - for oppressing the poor, creating shoddy products that are costly and keep the poor under their thumb and forcing people to work on the Sabbath, I will take their owners and lead them away in chains f

2. I’ve told Exxon 3 times and NOW they are on my last nerve! I am just DONE with them - for taking advantage of misery and death to earn more money more money more money; they will die poor and on the streets

3. I’ve told China 3 times and NOW they are on my last nerve! I am just DONE with them - for enslaving her people, abusing them in factories not fit for dogs, for treating them like grain in a threshing machine; I will march her kings to Taiwan and South Korea to live out their days in imprisoned there abused in their minds as they have abused others.

4. I’ve told Sudan 3 times and NOW they are on my last nerve! I am just DONE with them - she deports whole towns; her leaders are greedy for land; they enslave and rape women and children; for this she will burn and see my justice complete.

5. I’ve told Saddleback Church 3 times and NOW they are on my last nerve! I am just DONE with them - spreads apostasy in that abomination of 40 Days of Purpose. So many unwittingly choose death through that, and they gather wealth into their coffers building large fancy temples while the poor starve under their fat noses. I will strike those buildings down unto the foundations.

6. I’ve told Willowcreek Church 3 times and NOW they are on my last nerve! I am just DONE with them - they water down My message and because they try to be all things to all people they have become nothing to everyone. They are an empty shell full to overflowing of dead people who think they are alive. I will scatter them to the four winds in the hope that they may find Me and then find life.

WHY DO YOU LOOK SO SMUG? Do you think you’re any better than these?

I’ve told you three times and now you’re on my last nerve too. I’m done with you. What makes you think that working at a homeless ministry one day a month absolves you of your sin?

How many homeless do you walk by on your way to work? Do you know their faces? their names? Do you look the other way?

I said to you, sell everything to follow me ... have you done that yet?

What do you do with your time? When do you feed the poor among you? Or do you just sit and bemoan it to each other while feeding your well-fed faces and children? You have time to exercise, but not to clothe those without jackets in winter. You have time to play games, but you don’t have time to work a soup kitchen? Hah! I have time for you now and you will spend time in eternity wishing you had spent your time on the things that are important to Me.

You cows of Fairfax who think you can come here each week to prove your goodness to each other and the world are merely showing me the blackness in your hearts. You do not change ... you keep doing the same things and they are NOT the things of My Way. You cannot follow me if you will not pick up your feet and walk.

Yet you run to follow these fancy musicians and slick talkers ...their music is filthy trash in my ears.

You just don’t get it, do you? If you cannot have the same priorities in life that I have then you are not about what I’m about and I will not know you ... I will not call you by name ... I will turn my face from you and condemn you to the everlasting pit.

I’m talking to you ... You’d better hear me now!

LightHusband told me to work myself up into a real lather and get angry. But when push came to shove ... I couldn't do it. I'm a failure as a prophet. A real prophet-weenie. Or prophet-mallow. I looked out at the people (my peeps) and as I railed, they curled up. I got three sentences into the part about them (Israel in the real Amos) and I could go no further. My heart is too soft for the prophet business. So I cut it short, left off a big chunk and finished early, mostly to make my stomach stop hurting. Because I'm a chicken. LightHusband was disappointed. He still is. He'll have to live with it.

Then we talked all together about Amos and his picture of justice and most importantly what does racial justice look like. We began by looking at the Remember Segregation website. No, we began by listening to a portion of "I Have A Dream." and then looking at the website. The website is a shocking reminder of how blatant segregation was. A lot of ideas were thrown around. I liked this one ... racial justice will include giving hope to each generation that they will grow up and be able to have opportunity. I've been thinking about that a lot since Sunday and how we've done away with the blatant signs of segregation, but we still withheld hope from so many children and parents. We're not so much closer to that dream of measuring people by the content of their character.

The beauty was that in our lily-white church this one particular Sunday, a man with very dark skin came to partake in the worship of God with us. I gave him the last word in the discussion for no particular reason other than that he raised his hand and we were over time and it seemed like the right thing to do. He reminded us that in the church we are neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus called to bring His Kingdom here on earth. It was lovely.

12 Comments:

Blogger kate said...

note for later one-on-one discussion: I'd love to hear your arguments against Willow Creek church sometime. I was mystified by that one. Because, well, I was just attending a Willow Creek spin-off, and it was anything but dead and watered-down and uncaring. I believe they were giving 25 percent of the tithe to charitable circumstances, both in Arlington and abroad, and sending teams of people to build shelters, etc. ...
Wal-Mart, now -- I get that one. :)

1/18/2006 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

Remember, I said, I don't necessarily advocate everything I was ranting against.

That was one of them. I've never been to a mega-church, but people love to rail against them. So I used that. Personally, I think they're very easy to "hide" in. I think they're also another symptom of a lot of things that are wrong (in general) with our "super-size," if-it's-bigger-it-must-be-better, culture. But they're just a symptom, not a cause. And that's sort of a generalized complaint against our culture, not the mega-churches themselves. I think that attitude in our culture de-humanizes people and forces them into this one-size-fits-all mentality which if you examine the roots of that, is really quite un-Biblical. God did not make us in a one-size-fits-all image. Soooo ...

But ... as I said at the beginning of this ... I don't really have any serious complaint with the mega-churches. The whole rant was a teaching tool to get everyone's attention and get us all thinking outside of our boxes. If it did that ... well ... good.

1/18/2006 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

on the other hand, to some extent, trying to make mega-churches small like us is also trying to be a one-size-fits-ll image.

1/18/2006 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

Well ... Maggie ... I don't think I ever suggested that making mega-churches small like us was a good option. What I did suggest was that they are a result of our culture's bigger-is-always-better factory processed mentality. There are people who are comfortable in this environment. I would venture that that number is far fewer than actually go there if those people started being honest with themselves. But I'm not going to start being the honesty police anytime soon!!

1/18/2006 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Just forwarded that sermon to about 6 or 7 of my friends and am already getting some intersting discussion from it.

1/18/2006 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Croghan said...

Sonja, this is breathtaking stuff. Thank you.

1/18/2006 10:30:00 PM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

Well, Ryan ... don't keep it to yourself. Share, please.

Thanks, Mike

1/18/2006 10:50:00 PM  
Blogger Israel said...

finally it's up! I've been waiting to send this on... more soon! oh and I admit... YOU make the minor prophets NOT BORING! You've done it again Sonja... I do believe God wants you to teach. You have a gift. :) But that's just me speaking about your style and your content... which I have always liked! And I don't even have to suck up to you now as my bosses wife hahah ... not that I ever did! :)

1/19/2006 12:27:00 AM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

ISRAEL!! ... The minor prophets are NOT boring. Go back and read them again, just don't do it all at once (and definitely don't use KJV). Pick one, read it slowly and try to read between the lines. Make sure you keep track of who is doing the talking and when. Now do a little google research about the milieu into which the prophet was speaking. They are fascinating I tell you ... it's not me, it's the stuff I got to work with. Heck ... now that you've got this info, just read Amos again. It doesn't take long ... just half an hour or so.

1/19/2006 06:41:00 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Thanks for the reply, Sonja. I appreciate it. I think what it comes down to is that personal relationships need to be formed, and I see your point about the ease in which one can slip into a huge church and slip out again without having interacted with anyone. I didn't realize you were talking about mega-churches...

1/19/2006 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

Kate, you're right ... personal relationships need to be formed. When a church (mega or mini) is doing that well and most of the people are moving closer to God, following Christ, becoming more like Him, then they're doing something right, no matter what size they are. I think that there was a time when Willowcreek did this. For all I know, they still do this ... because they were/are called to it. There are other churches doing it well too. But then they packaged it and everybody else decided they could do it too. But not everybody else is called to, and even tho WC (Willowcreek) wrote a zillion books on the topic, there's a certain (what's that French word) something that cannot be transmitted ... maybe it's the Holy Spirit ... whatever.

That's what I'm talking about when I talk about bigger-is-better, factory processed culture. We think to ourselves ... wow look what what so-and-so did, he's got a great big church. I want to do that. And I might have really great motives and all that too. But I haven't really got so-and-so's heart or calling or demographic or neighborhood or ... any number of things. So my really big church becomes a shadow of so-and-so's ... it's just as big, because I've done a great job at copying his form. But I've missed some key ingredients.

Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't ... I just think we need to be more care-full, more thought-full, before we submit the church (the bride, the body of Christ) to the marketing machine. It's not just about winning souls.

And ... as with all things large, they become harder to manage. The institution itself takes on a life of its own. A small church (or mini in our case) has its own problems to deal with ... but they are different from those of a mega church. Hmmm ... that would be another interesting post.

1/19/2006 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Yep. I'm thinking about it now, and I've had the great good fortune to go to several churches (I can think of three or four offhand) led by pastors who were DISMAYED when the church got bigger than X. But they were careful about expressing that, because they wanted to be faithful to God's call, but they were unsure how to make a church work that was bigger than X. And I respected them immensely for it.
Thanks for writing all this down in this post. I admit, I don't read the longer ones very thoroughly sometimes because I almost always check them from work (oops). But I just took some time to read this one, and, man. It's good stuff. I was thinking that the last part of that prophet-speak didn't sound very familiar! Hee. I couldn't have said it, either. But thanks for writing it. We still need to hear it.

1/19/2006 05:03:00 PM  

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