Ah, I’ve Always Wondered What the Church’s Job Was
Texts: Isaiah 51:1-6, Matthew 16:13-20
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
August 24, 2014
Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle was removed from Acts 29, a church planting network he helped to found. Mars Hill is really not only one church, but is now in five states with fifteen locations. He is an incredibly polarizing figure. He purchased his own books to get on best seller lists, and has been accused of plagiarism. Additionally, his misogyny is almost legendary in all bad ways.
There is one thing that stands out about Mark Driscoll, however. He’s mean.
John Hagee is the pastor of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. Like Driscoll, a mega-church pastor. In a sermon recently he talked about how horrible poor people were and he distorted a Scripture passage to proof-text his point. He regularly speaks about how people who disagree with his opinions are counterfeit Christians and speaks regularly of the end times and delights in telling his listeners about the torment the ungodly people are going to experience.
There is one thing that stands out about John Hagee, however. He’s mean.
There is also Archbishop John Myers of Newark, New Jersey. In his time he has admonished priests who give Holy Communion to pro-choice parishioners and divorced Catholics who remarry without getting an annulment. Refused to let diocesan teachers attend a national meeting for Catholic educators because one of the speakers was known to favor ordination of women and fired a parochial school teacher for permitting a debate on ordination of women.
Supported the Cardinal Newman Society. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb. (since retired), one of its stalwarts, has threatened to excommunicate Catholics who belong to liberal church organizations such as Call to Action. He is currently adding on to an already huge retirement home and charging it to the Archdiocese of Newark. Despite the controversy surrounding this, he has not relented in this.
I know a good many people who know Myers and there is one thing that stands out about him. He’s mean. No one I know who actually has dealt with Myers has ever accused him of having a heart.
I know. Someone’s going to say I’m picking on ‘conservative’ clergy. These people may call themselves whatever they want, they’re just mean guys who have used Jesus and ideology to say and do mean things to people. There are people just as conservative as them who are good people, great people in fact. These guys are just plain mean.
When we are mean and say we are merely professing the truth in love or preaching the true Gospel, we are missing the point. Being mean and hateful and doing it in the name of Jesus is merely behaving badly and blaming it on God and that is shameful. What they are doing, and have done, is turn people AWAY from God. God is a God of love and love brings people together. Love is patient and kind. These guys are neither. It’s time we remind people that these are folks who may have had some good moments, but in their lust for power and glory have lost sight of the God who calls them to love. I hope their hearts can be melted. Meanwhile, they deserve to be ignored.
I find, especially as I get older, I like to pray. Actually, that’s sort of understating it. I pray because I need to pray. I crave prayer time.
That may sound weird or nerdy or something like that, but it’s become a part of my day and a part of my life. I tend to pray, at least once or twice a day the Liturgy of the Hours which primarily use Psalms.
I pray not because I have all the answers; I have very few answers.
I don’t pray to find out the answers; I pray to allow God’s way to intervene.
I don’t pray for people to get them to see it my way; I pray that I may have an open mind and heart in their presence.
I don’t pray because I am strong; I pray because I am weak.
I don’t pray because I’m so good; I pray because I grapple with my own humanity and weaknesses.
I don’t pray because God needs me to pray; I pray because I need to pray to God.
I don’t pray to come into God’s presence; I pray that I may be aware of God’s presence around me.
I don’t pray for a certain ideology to prevail or one to fail; I pray that people may actually grow up and listen to one another and work together.
I pray an awful lot for peace and for people I love and a lot of people I don’t know. I figure God knows them and that’s enough.
I don’t pray the Psalms because they are all good and uplifting; I pray because they are real and they capture the joy and sorrow, the bliss and pain of life. They are real.
I don’t pray with a lot of certainty; I pray with a lot of seeking and praying the Psalms forces me to seek and wonder. I often wonder about Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan. (Don’t ask, it’s a Psalm thing….)
I pray not because I have an abundance of time; I take the time to pray because I have an abundance of need.
Which reminds me…..time to pray.
The most recent Gallup Poll has the Congressional approval rating at 15%, approve, 80% disapprove, and 5% have no opinion. President Obama’s approval rating is just about 43%, which is pretty low for a President. Ironically, even though 80% of the people in the country disapprove of Congress right now, the vast majority of those running for re-election, will, in fact, be re-elected. People are not happy with their elected officials.
As a person who lives in a market with all Kentucky television stations we are being bombarded with ads from Alison Lundergan Grimes and Mitch McConnell, both of whom are running for Senator McConnell’s current seat. Fact checkers are having a field day with the television ads as virtually nothing that has appeared on television has thus far been even remotely true. The election will be won or lost on advertising and falsehoods. It makes me understand the 15% approval rating a little more. God bless us with our freedom of speech. I wish people would concentrate more on responsibility with their speech!
But these are the least of the issues facing the world right now. In Israel there is endless carnage in Gaza. In the Ukraine there is still carnage and the specter of a civilian plane shot down. Thousands of children are fleeing violence in Central America, coming to the United States and no one has a clue as to how to deal with this.
Then, of course, I go on Facebook and see all sorts of mean comments and articles. Sigh.
The world does not seem like a happy place any longer. I also recently read that people are 40% less empathetic than they were in the 1980’s. I’m not sure how one measures that, but that didn’t sound good to me.
It’s all rather depressing.
This is why I have faith in God and why I pray. Hope in the things of this world is, in a word, hopeless. When the Great Depression came about Herbert Hoover, who was an expert in disasters and was an incredibly good person, believed the goodness and compassion of people would rise up and people would help one another. People would share food and companies would hire as many people as they could even if profits had to go down for a while. He had great faith in human beings and his faith was crushed. He was often called heartless and blamed for people’s suffering and that was unfair. He cared deeply but found himself completely disillusioned with humanity.
The reason I love the Psalms is they remind us that the world is always a troubled place and cruelty exists; they also remind us that God hears us and listens to us and loves us through this. That’s why I have faith in God.