Text: James 5:13-20
September 30, 2012
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
The Light of God’s Love
Text: John 1:1-14
People who are NFL fans are in a tizzy. The replacement officials have been spotty. Some good calls, some bad calls. This past weekend was a debacle. The final game of the weekend ended on an obviously blown call. The call was so bad that there wasn’t one thing wrong with it, there were multiple things wrong with it.
never been in the position they were in. These were low level officials who had no aspiration or skill to officiate on the professional level. This has been an opportunity to make some good money quickly and live out lifelong dreams of officiating on such a big stage.
Professional football is different from other levels of football. People who like football like different ‘types’ of the game and they all have great things going for them----if you like football. Pro football is played before large crowds with large television audiences, with professional commentators who know the game, and it is shot from multiple angles. The players are uniformly big and fast. The game is faster than on other levels and the stakes are incredibly high.
NFL officials are often yelled at but often usually correct. The replacement refs, not so much.
The NFL reviewed the play and said that the officials missed offensive pass interference (duh!) but made the correct call on the catch. This decision made, despite the very clear evidence that the defender was the person who caught the ball. Talk about nonsense. Talk about a head slap moment!!!
The most interesting comment on all of this, however, was a Facebook friend who said that it would be good if we were concerned as to the behavior and decisions or our elected officials as we are NFL officials. He was totally correct. Sometimes I look at how decisions are made by elected officials and I feel a need to give myself a major head slap. Duh!!!!
Such seems the state of our world right now.
It is interesting to read a wide variety of opinions as to the ‘why’s’ of things.
In most religious circles there is a piece of information that is well known. Worship attendance is on the decline. Less people attend worship than 10 years ago; and 10 years ago it was less than 20 years ago. The decline has been steady and often steep.
Additionally, the next piece of information is also well known. The average age of people in a typical Worship Service is older. Older people are more inclined to get up on Sunday morning than younger people are. The decline actually started with the Baby Boom generation and as that generation is aging, the decline has become even more pronounced.
As time has progressed, when people are asked about their religious beliefs, the single largest group has become ‘spiritual but not religious.’ This often means that a person has some sort of belief in a higher power, but that higher power may or may not be defined and the person does not Worship in any faith community.
I recently read an article from a Roman Catholic Bishop who I’ve decided not to identify, but I think he has part of the story backward. His reasoning is that he sees a serious attempt to marginalize religion from the public forum and to limit religious freedom to the freedom of worship. Most clergy who are even marginally honest know there is no attempt by anyone to limit religious freedom and freedom to Worship as people so chose unless they happen to belong to a tradition that limits that freedom. Clergy know, within the parameters of our own traditions, there is total freedom of Worship and practice of religion. Many of those complaining about limitations on religious freedom are upset that they cannot impose their values on others who do not embrace them.
As for the public forum, again, I do not see this. There are people like Bill Maher who makes fun of religious people, but he is a comedian. Much of what he makes fun of is actually often deserving of the humor it receives. Some aspects of religious life have been dismissed by many, but it is not so much society’s fault as it is the fault of those of us within religious circles.
I suspect part of the reason there has been a decline in Worship attendance has been the fault of the religious community. In fact, I suspect it is the major reason.
For one, people have learned that clergy are seriously flawed….and we are. No exceptions. We fail, we often fail grievously, and as we learned with the child abuse scandal many of failed criminally with the most vulnerable in our midst. As has often been the case, innocent people were not protected by faith communities and people abandoned those faith communities. People lose faith in churches when this happens.
Secondly, churches have been too front and center in politics. There has been a log of rendering unto Caesar by the religious community.
Third, a science advances often there is little desire for many theological ideas to advance either. When I hear people saying that God expects us to believe the universe is 6000 years old I find myself wondering why anyone is willing to come to Worship any longer.
Fourth, groups like the Westboro Baptist Church and the “pastor” in Florida who is virulently anti-Islam have given people the impression that Christianity is one large hate group. When I see how many churches treat people who are gay, I see how people get this impression.
Fifth, gender is a hormonal ‘accident.’ Presuming people have to have different roles in church because of gender is, to me, insane. The rest of society has grown up. Why haven’t churches?
Perhaps the problem of Worship attendance is that we are not looking in the mirror enough.
Of course, there are other reasons….reasons I would probably not like to wish upon myself. I know I have flaws and my church has flaws. This is a huge challenge for those of us in religious circles.
No one asked me but I decided to share my words of wisdom to the Presidential candidates. These can apply to the nominees of the two major parties, but in my humble opinion, these adages are good advice for everyone.
First, be aware that everything you say in public, even when ‘public’ is a ‘private’ event, has someone there who doesn’t like you and someone who can very possibly record everything you say. In short, mind your p’s and q’s because anything you say can and will be used.
Secondly, when you mess up, apologize. There seems to be this aversion to apologizing these days and that is a very, very bad development. Voters all mess up themselves and are usually very forgiving. Simple, quick, and sincere apologies change the playing field almost instantly. They are also good for the soul. The prodigal son ate a fatted calf at his Dad’s dinner table instead of feeding pigs because of one sincere apology. People who tell you apologies are bad are fools.
Thirdly, recognize that one of the nominees will be the President of the United States when all of this is over. Respect your opponents even if you don’t like them or don’t agree with them. If that opponent becomes the President, you need to assure they are not marginalized to the point that they cannot govern. At the end of the day, people are political opponents, not mortal enemies. Remember that!
Fourth, do not watch the news, do not listen to the radio, and avoid reading politics in the newspaper. You may begin to pay attention to what they have to say and become immobilized by criticism or advice.
Fifth, listen to average people. Get yourself in position to listen to average people without someone filtering what is being said. Your political advisors will try and ‘protect’ you from the average person. Don’t allow that.
Sixth, go on the network that likes your opponent better than you. Allow someone who is somewhat adversarial to you to interview you and give them a chance to ask tough questions----but questions that are fair. They should respect the office you are seeking and act accordingly if given the opportunity. Even if they don’t vote for you, they may respect you more if you allow them the opportunity to talk with you.
Seventh, keep it clean. You’ll sleep better.
Last, your closest friends and spouse need to have the opportunity to be totally honest with you. Allow them that and listen to them.