Over this last week I have been working with the Missoula Lions Club to sell Christmas Trees, which is our annual fundraiser to support our work in Missoula. As I have sold trees, I have seen how generous people can be when they leave a tip (which goes toward the club funds for community service) and how thankful they are that we are selling these trees. It got me thinking, why doesn’t church get this kind of reaction, even from the regular attendees?
I think I have previously answered this question in sermons and studies and papers. I think it lies in the statement “This is the way we have always done it.” Now, I do not say this as being the common phrase in my congregation, but I think that Christianity in the US got stagnant during the boom of the 1950s-60s. We fell into the comfort of having people who were active and just going about doing things the same way all the time, and then when the world changed again, we didn’t change as well.
You see, prior to WW2 and the uptick in kids/church attendance that followed, churches where generally pretty small (100 people being a pretty large church). We are now back to the time when smaller churches are the common place, but most of our smaller churches got used to being a “big church” and now struggles to support themselves. The work and activities have not really changed to meet the changing world as they have done in the past.
Now, please do not mistake my words here, the Church historically has adapted to continue to share the Good News with the world around it, engaging society and providing context for scripture and the message it gives us today. But you see, our world sees Church as a relic of times past. Perhaps it has to do with “wokeness” (how I hate that word), perhaps it has to do with not providing relevance to the world today, perhaps it has to do with the trauma that has been done to people in the name of religion (and this is not limited to one group of people, people of various views, socio-economic backgrounds and whatnot have been hurt by the Church in some way). But you see, when I read scripture, when I see the message and dive into how scripture can be used for today, I see a message that is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago, a message of love.
Church has gotten so tied into things that drive a wedge between us and our mission. We get tied up in political talks about things like abortion and LGBTQ rights and whether or not something is right or wrong. Now, I must be completely honest that will always stand up against Church/faith being used to harm someone, especially by ways of changing the laws of our land, but I see that as part of the mission of Love. I do not see it as me having a political agenda, but an agenda of love that makes me want to let the world know the God loves ALL, that God is a God of Love, Mercy and Grace. In doing this, I acknowledge the bad history of the Church, I acknowledge that people still try and use the name of Jesus to harm others in various ways, and I say “you have seen the dark side of humanity, come and see the Light of Jesus, feel the warmth.”
So, when I started reflection on selling Christmas trees, I did not expect it to go this far, but you see, people support the Lions Club because they know the Lions are working to do good in the world, they see the Lions work in Action. So, the Church needs to do the same. We must make it known that Jesus is at work in the world through us, and that we acknowledge our past and want to move to a bright future full of love.
As this Advent season moves forward, let’s think about and reflect on Jesus’ love, the lets reflect on the past and let’s move forward to a bright and beautiful future.