Saturday, August 29, 2009
Why can't you get pizza at McDonalds? If it were on the menu, don't you think they would sell some? Why can't you get sushi at McDonalds? Surely somebody would order it if it were on the menu, right? Isn't the goal of McDonalds to sell the most whatever they can?
A decade or more ago, McDonalds was floundering. The fries were cold, the burgers steamed and left in a warmer too long, the place was not appealing, too many McRibs and all had muddied the identity of this once iconic giant in the fast food field. Then they remembered who they were. They returned to their values. They put time limits on how long the food can sit unsold before it is discarded. They concentrated on good burgers, good fries, and good service. They listened and put in what I consider some of the best coffee around (and I am pretty serious about my coffee). And McDonalds is back on top.
Christians could learn something here. The Church has forgotten who we were and so we have become something foreign to our past and uncertain to our future. We have become followers of the culture around us and we have shaped our message more to what we think people want than who we are. We have tried to become all things to all people but in such a way that we have ended up being nothing in particular.
We have misplaced our values -- the Word and Sacraments have been replaced by good entertainment and "how to" sermons. The educational settings that once taught Jesus Christ and Scripture now act as "self help" forums where the immediate goals of happiness and pleasure have replaced the eternal goals of forgiveness, life and salvation.
I am speaking here of the Church in general -- every denomination has been bit by this bug and is to one degree or another suffering the disease of relativism. Out of fear of standing for something for something unpopular, we stand for something we think everyone can agree with -- something like finding happiness, getting ahead, feeling good, having a great marriage, good sex, and successful children... We have left the poor to advocate for them, we have abandoned the needy to petition government to do something for them, and we have redefined our responsibility to get others to take responsibility for making this world a greener, more egalitarian, place.
Is that who we are supposed to be? Is this the Church that Jesus established by His blood, the bride whom He cleansed from sin to be His own, the beloved for whom He died, and the mortal for whom He rose to give immorality?
I respect McDonalds for the way they remembered who they were. I don't eat there much but I stop for the coffee -- especially when I travel. I wish that the Christian Church would remember who we were, whom we were created to be. I wish that we were willing to risk it all in order to be faithful to the values of the Gospel, to the means of grace we call the Word and Sacraments, to the mission of knowing Jesus Christ and making Him known, to the service that takes responsibility for the unborn, the children, the poor, the needy, the elderly and so many others. I wish that we at least made the eternal as important a priority as the present, that we listened to Scripture just as much as we listen to people, that we lead instead of followed behind (a day late and a dollar short of everyone else).
It is my wish for the day... the goal and purpose of my ministry as a Pastor... the vision that guides and shapes where I lead this congregation... It is not particularly Lutheran... but then Lutherans have insisted that we were not the ones who innovated or brought in novelty... So then all the churches might find some common ground here... what do you think?