I have not been able to separate myself from the impressions that I trust were of the Spirit this morning. I just concluded my readings of the Old Testament with the last of the Minor Prophets, The Book of Malachi.
I find the churches in our day to be in similar position as were the Houses of Worship, the synagogues, if you please, in Malachi’s day.
Not only were they struggling for money, the portion of Malachi used most often by pastor’s today, but also with justice issues. Perhaps this is already becoming a little stale? In fact, even the media has gradually moved away from the protests and the victimization of young black men, used earlier to manipulate the masses; rather now, capitalizing on the overdue statistics of police officers killed in the line of duty. Hear me, both are tragic, but neither will get us to the deeper challenge and eventual solution, for that only comes by way of spiritual renewal. That my friend is the charge of the Church (Big “C”).
The challenge that begs my heart only deepens with the dialogue from both points of view, around justice, capitalism and the American way. When overlaid with prophetic scripture, the real challenge is OUR hypocrisy as “believers.” I too have such skewed perspective given the white privilege I have known while growing up. Both a blessing to my family, and a detriment when it comes to the ways of the Lord, and what the Lord may be currently saying to our country.
How could the churches in this nation be so overly manipulated by the media, so possessed with their varied politics, left and right, and still yet profess to be of one Spirit and of Christ?
The same scriptures used to inadvertently justify our religious points of view (gotta love the editorials from Christians, left and right), speak sharply to the fact that there is only One Spirit.
My point: if we are light-years apart in the critical areas of mercy, justice and compassion, how could we profess the same Spirit and not be jointly moved toward more Christ-like outcomes?
I know I am stepping into deep yogurt but reading through these Books of Prophecy leads me to one of two conclusions, perhaps both? Either, we are no longer Christian, or perhaps the culture our American Christianity has cultivated is no longer Christ? There is always hope, but hope often comes with pain and sacrifice. That day may now be upon the “righteous.”
If one reads Malachi, chapters 1-2, it becomes apparent that what we have been led to call worship, our Sabbath offerings and daily demonstration of Christianity, has little worth when aligned with God’s word. In verses 2:14-17, he uses the analogy of divorce between the Bride and the priesthood assigned to “husband” her.
The partner and groom spoken of was the priesthood of that day, so blind that they were asking: “Where is the God of justice.” The irony in their logic was that they were crying out for a move of God while denying God the resources for that remedy: themselves, their acts of service and their finances. The “church” of that day was “praying” though clueless as to what God was hearing as they “prayed” and witnessing as they practiced! Hello, American Christianity!
Zechariah had earlier challenged the practice of their faith with these words: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.” Zech 7:9-10 (NIV).
Even stronger words from Malachi: “When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.” 1:8 (NIV). Though we no longer sacrifice animals (thanks to Christ, whom we sacrificed once and for ALL), the quality of our offerings is woefully inadequate when measured against the conditions of many in our country.
I agree that we cannot afford to police the world nor fund all humanitarian efforts globally, but we can at least come together within our own communities to have the hard conversations that separate us and provide for the children that suffer because of those separations. The money we sink into brick and mortar every week in the name of God would more than provide for that! We who call ourselves leaders can provide for a better day, if we step up to the challenge rather than continuing to comfort those in denial, who then always over react with each of the crises that injustice and denial will most surely bring. Again, just read the Prophets of old!
Perhaps moving our thoughts to a more recent historical era might help. We may be little distance from where the Church of Germany was when Hitler stepped on the scene, leaving little hope for Christianity had not Dietrich Bonheoffer emerged to lead an underground rescue effort known as the Confessing Church.* Many other clergy chose the easier route of political correctness, job security, even bribery over the leading of the Spirit. We all know the outcome!
This Old Clergy Dog continues to struggle each day with the not so new tricks God is requiring him to learn!
*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessing_Church” title=”Confessing Church”>