Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Are You Being Served?
Anyway, the long way around to my point is that we often ask the same question of people and their experience with the worship life of their church home. Are you being served? Are you being fed? Are your needs being met? As in the TV series, we confuse the question of whether we are getting what we want with whether we are being served. Hardly anyone on that show ever got what they wanted (unless what they wanted was something absolutely crazy). But regardless of whether or not they got what they desired, they were always being served -- even it it was by a rather kooky and inept staff.
Are you being served? Interesting question, actually. Is the Word there? Is it being read and proclaimed faithfully from Scripture and preached faithfully from the pulpit? Too often, people say "no" when the answer is really "yes." We are being served up God's Word but the problem lies in that it is not that Word we are hungry for or desire to hear. We who possess the itching ears described by St. Paul (For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions) are often getting exactly what God intends but not what we want.
Are you being served? Are the Sacraments there? Are they faithfully administered according to Christ's Word and institution and are they offered faithfully in a practice consistent with this intention? Our people are not so sure -- not because they do not know if the Sacraments are there and are being offered faithfully but simply because we are not content with what God has given to us. We are always looking for more, for something different, for that which is novel or new, or for that which suits our desire. So we complain that we are not being served or fed nor are our needs being met when that is not the truth at all.
I, for one, would like to banish all such questions from the vocabulary of those who study or consult with congregations. Should not the whole issue be framed differently? Is the Word read and proclaimed faithfully? Are the Sacraments administered regularly and according to Christ's intention? If the answer is "yes" to both of these questions, then the problem lies not in what the Church offers but what our hearts desire.
We want things that appeal to us and make us the center of everything. We want to be given not only choice, but veto power over those choices. We vote not only with our complaints but with our attendance and with our dollars. And the truth is we choose witch doctors over solid medicine more often than we care to admit. We accept what fits our preexisting ideas and reject that which does not -- no matter how true it is and how false what reflects our own thinking and desires. We cannot trust ourselves. That is the whole point. We will always choose chocolate and chips over broccoli and brussel sprouts. If we could trust ourselves, we would not need the intercession and work of the Spirit to lead us where our hearts do not want to do and to illuminate the darkness our hearts have learned to call light.
Let us all agree -- no matter what our theological perspective -- to judge by another standard that if we feel we are being served, fed, nourished, or needs met. Let us all agree, that if congregations and the Church as a whole are going to be evaluated, it needs to be on the basis of faithfulness and not whim or fancy.