May we be a Church that God is pleased with us
There is so much going on in the world today that I am having a hard time trying to determine what is important for me to communicate with you as we build up our faith community. So, let me just list some things that have been on my mind.
· Murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police. The four officers were fired, but no charges.
· Amy Cooper, a white woman in NYC Central Park, made a false accusation of threat by an African American man because he asked her to follow the law and put her dog on a leash in the park. Once her company found out, they fired her.
· Asian Americans are facing increasing racism because of the Coronavirus pandemic starting in China.
· Los Angeles stores re-opening. The new infection rate is still on the rise, and communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately affected by the virus.
· Thousands of people flocked to parks, beaches, and hiking trails, ignoring social distancing. Selfishness rules the day, no regard for the safety of others.
· People are in grocery stores ignoring one-way aisles and not social distancing. They seem to think keeping other people safe is inconvenient for them.
· LA is allowing churches to worship in person at 25% capacity, no singing, no group recitations, no potluck dinners, and no physical greetings. By claiming freedom of religion, pastors are putting church finances above the safety of their members.
· Today US deaths from coronavirus exceeded 100,000, which is almost twice the number of total US soldier deaths in 21 years of the Vietnam War.
These news items remind us that the world around us is very divided, and we need religions that change people’s hearts. We have religious leaders that, unless people come to specific buildings to pray, either God does not hear them, or people do not “feel” like they are praying. Somehow, they believe unless they have some kind of religious trappings, their God may not be able to hear them. I don’t know what kind of God they are worshiping, but it is clear to me that their God cannot be the God of the Bible.
The Christian faith faces two main obstacles to be relevant: ritualism and emotionalism. Ritualism relies on the idea that if an adherent performs certain institutionally sanctioned rituals, then the person is accepted by God. Their confidence is in their performing the ritual, not God. Emotionalism has steadily worked into the mainstream of religious ethos in US for the past century. Emotionalism is based on the idea that the more emotional we are in worship service, the greater our sense of security of God’s love for us. It emphasizes that we must “feel” God’s love for us, and the purpose of worship is to get the worshipper to be emotional. When young people are taught that to become a Christian, you must “feel” emotional. However, neither of these two “isms” of our time is in the Bible.
The Bible is clear that faith and works are two sides of the same coin. If we believe the Bible, we can’t say that we are spiritual without our works demonstrating the love of God. Our spirituality is not based on how many rituals we observe or how emotional we are in worship. Our spiritual life can only be measured in how we love our neighbors and care for those who are in need of experiencing a greater dose of God’s grace. When George Floyd was dying on the street of Minneapolis, he needs the Church to stand up for his rights. It is Christians who need to be reaching out to families of over 100,000 people who die from coronavirus in the past three months. The world needs Christians to say, “We will worship in spirit and truth, and not in our buildings during the pandemic.”
May we be a Church that God is pleased with us as we live out our faith in works in our lives.