be the change

The Church as a World Changing Agent

There are many who see the Church as an agent for social change. It is an organization that is called to impact the world and some believe that by changing policy or the law of the land is a very appropriate role of the Church.

The intermingling of Church and State is an interesting line. Some say that it is not okay to have the symbols of the State (such as the flag) in the sanctuary. While others are okay with it. Some argue that symbols of the state are okay in the worship setting, but find it inappropriate for the Church to “talk politics” in worship. There is not one side that has a monopoly on being inconsistent in the separation of Church and State. It is a human thing. If you believe something then you will justify all the means to achieve the desired end. Even do something that you would not allow those who disagree with you to do.

Christians do not have a monopoly on hypocrisy, but humans do.

In all our efforts to change the world “out there” it has become clear to me that a dwindling number of people join in the Spirit’s work to change the world “in here”. That is, we see the problems in the world beyond us and are blind to the problems within us.

The Church is an agent for change, but the change the Church is most equipped to address is the change within. As it is said by Thomas Merton in the book The Wisdom of the Desert:

“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it all the rest are not only useless but disastrous.”

The Church is an agent for great change. Perhaps the greatest change is the change of heart that Christ works in us. The change of action that repentance calls us to. The change of reaction that forgiveness gives us.

Few disagree that we should “be the change we wish to see in the world.” The question is what world are we talking about? Too often we only think of the world out there and ignore the world within.

Sit, Stay, Go - A Dilemma in Table Manners

The UMC has an open table when it comes to Communion. We take the theological stand that the communion table is one that belongs to Christ and putting restrictions on who can and cannot feast with Christ at table is not the place of the church. We understand that Jesus did not kick people out of the room when the Eucharist ("Last Supper") was instituted. We hold fast to the promise that when we come to the table we may very well be changed and that, in part, is the power of being at the table with God and others. 

Sitting, Staying and Going with Rev. Dr. Charles Boayue Jr. ( hear my interview with him here )

Sitting, Staying and Going with Rev. Dr. Charles Boayue Jr. (hear my interview with him here)

We understand that the communion table is a place where people are invited to sit, stay at, AND go from. We trust, have faith and place some hope in the repetition of sit, stay AND go. It may take time, much longer than we may even want to admit, but we continue the practice of sit, stay AND go. 

Within the church there are people who feel sit, stay AND go is not applicable for other tables. Rather, the position seems to be taken (on both left and right) that we need to sit, stay OR go from tables. Here are a couple of examples:

Some conservatives desire that the UMC should no longer sit and stay but rather go from the table of Religious Coalition For Reproductive Choice (RCRC). The UMC is a founding member of the RCRC and while the RCRC may not line up 100% with the UMC on a very difficult topic it is also the case that the members of the UMC are not all aligned with the official stance of the church on these same matters. The power of sit, stay and go was abandoned in favor of forcing a choice. The UMC chose to go. So the UMC is no longer going to the RCRC table.

Some progressives desire that the UMC should divest (an economic term meaning to "leave") from companies dealing in fossil fuels. There were votes that were taken but the UMC vote to stay at the table of companies dealing in such industry. Some of the rational that I heard was that these same companies are the ones leading the way on renewable energy source and that being a shareholder gives us vote and voice to influence these companies. The UMC chose to stay at this table.  

Choosing to only "go" from tables because the table does not align with our current values or we are not influencing the table any longer is missing a larger point. Table fellowship does not come with the expectation to change the minds of others at table but to be open to the reality that we may be the ones who are changed. It took Jesus courage to sit, stay AND go from the table with Judas and Peter. It takes courage to sit at, stay with AND go from a table that you feel like you cannot change. It takes courage to be continue the sit, stay AND go pattern because that cycle may influence/change you.

The courageous sit, stay AND go.

The proud sit, stay OR go.

My concern is that my denomination is divorcing our table theology from our table practice.

What Colbert, Stewart and Chase Can Teach "The Church"

One of the great journalist/NBA coach exchanges.  

Journalist are an interesting bunch. We have all sorts of respect for the journalist who tries to get the Truth or expose the darkness in the world. We trust the journalist that asks the tough questions and finds a humble way to do so in the process We feel betrayed when we think a journalist is lying or not accurate. We have high standards for journalists. 

At the same time we seem to also have a distrust of the "Media". We know that journalists work for "The Media" but when we say "The Media" is bias or all garbage, we generally are talking about some amorphous idea we label "The Media". We can dismiss "The Media" if we don't like what it says, we can ignore "The Media" by tuning it out, we can discredit "The Media" by offering up different information. 

In many respects this is also true for clergy and "The Church". Many people, religious or not, meet clergy and trust clergy. There is a level of appreciation that clergy are trying to do the right things and do them with humility. It is also true that people have high standards of clergy which is why when clergy do things that violate those standards there is a sense of betrayal and anger. 

Similarly, just as there is distrust toward "The Media" there is also a growing distrust of "The Church". "The Church" is what has caused deep wounds in people's lives and it is "The Church" that is responsible for some of the crazy hate language. We can dismiss "The Church" if we don't like what it says, we can ignore "The Church" by tuning it out, we can discredit "The Church" by offering up different information. 

Perhaps this is why so many of us Christians are apprehensive to talk about our church - people might hear us and confuse our church with "The Church". "Oh, my church is not like those on T.V." "My church is very open and affirming." "My church teaches about love not about judgement." It take so much work to qualify when we talk about our church that I can see why many of us choose to talk about something else. 

If Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart before him (or Chevy Chase before him) have taught us anything it is that in order to change "The Media" we have to talk more about the media. In order to change the perception of "The Church" we have to be willing to talk more (not less) about our church. 


Free Cookbook for those on American food assistance (made by Canadian)

Every month while in college I was given an allowance from my parents: $100. Granted they also paid for a lot of other things for me at school - books, much of tuition, rent - but I also had a job and was responsible for a good portion of my bills as well. My job in university ministry was not high paying and so most of my money went to the bills that I was responsible for. And when the first of the month hit and I had an additional $100 in my account, I felt like a king. 

A lot of my college days were also spent eating not only Ramen but bowls of white rice and pinto beans. I also would join my friends in the campus eateries and eat off their plates when they went to the bathroom or were not looking. I would snag a few french fries here and there and even get the last half of a sandwich if my friends were done. I never ate from the trash, but it was tempting at times. 

I felt too guilty to ask for more money from my parents at the time and so I kept on keeping on. I do not resent them and I really never felt like I went hungry. I am eternally thankful for my parents taking on such a huge financial load for me to attend a private school that I just did not think asking for more money would be the right thing to do. I managed to learn to eat on less than $4 a day. 

Eating on $4 a day or less is a situation that many Americans live with all the time. And when I was doing it for 3 years I never thought I could afford to eat more than rice, beans and Ramen. Recently, Leanne Brown created a cookbook for those who eat on $4 a day or less. Those who are on the SNAP program here in America are who she has in mind when she made this book

Not only is this a free cookbook, but also one that actually looks amazing. 

This is the sort of change and cultural artifact that I desire to be associated with. My next step is to find a way to get funds to print this off and have free copies available for people at my local food pantry: Community Link Mission

Anyone interested in helping fund this?