MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on bad people in the church. Why do we even believe or go to church? Listen to this podcast of his reflection on the readings for 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time to find out. Please read Matt. 13:44-52. #Prayer #Sermons #Homilyhelper #SecondComing #VacationChristians #BoothBuildersAnonymous #ChildofGodChildofGodChildofGod #Christian
MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 7/27/2014 The 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 13:44-52.
So, you want to be in ministry. So, you want to be a Christian. So, you want to follow Jesus because you are in love with him. Like a pack of cigarettes, becoming a Christian ought to have a warning label: You will be persecuted by family, former friends, people you meet, and, most of all, by the bad people in the Church.
Did I say “bad people in the Church?” Yes, I did. St. Augustine has said that the parable we read today in verses 47-50 of our reading for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time is a parable about the Church. In this parable, it says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a net that collects good and bad fish. It is only at the judgment that the angels come out and separate the good and bad fish from one another. In the meantime, before the Second Coming of Christ, the good fish and the bad fish are together, in the church.
A good friend of my son’s has recently become a born again Christian. He was a pot smoking, pill popping drunk most of his time in High School. He went to an evangelical Christian school. He went to camp. He heard some incredible preaching and accepted the existence of Christ as the Savior of the world. He is a changed man. He is loud about his faith. He is excited about his faith. He is persistent about sharing his faith with others. He is overbearing, crazy, enthusiastic and zealous—and I love it. People in our town of Munster are talking about him like he is Jesus returning to Nazareth, “Isn’t that the carpenter’s son? We know him better than he does. He is one of those Jesus freak wacked out zealots,” they say. I have to admit, I am looking at him and the rejection he is receiving amongst the success, just rolls off his back right now. That’s because he has not been thrown into prison, or shipwrecked yet.
Look at Paul’s ministry. He wrote Romans while in Corinth before taking the collection he was gathering from the churches to the Jerusalem Church. From here he would end up in prison, we know, because that is from whence he writes the letter to the Philippians around 60 A.D. Just start at Acts 9 and flip the pages of your Bible and look at the publisher’s self-imposed titles on the journeys of Paul:
“Saul escapes from the Jews.”
“James Killed and Peter Imprisoned.”
“The Uproar in Thessalonica.”
“The Riot in Ephesus.”
“Paul Arrested in the Temple.”
Welcome to Christianity and welcome to ministry! It is from this life and this man, that we get “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called to his purpose.” (Ro. 8:28).
When I received the calling to become a Methodist Minister, I thought God was going to use me to change the world. I was so excited! I couldn’t wait to preach. In the 30 years that I have been in ministry, I can tell you that I have never been hurt as much outside the Church as I have been by people inside the Church. Those bad fish in the Church have be cutting my line and breaking my fishing poles for thirty years. Even more, they have been ruthless about, none more than since I have become Catholic. I have been betrayed by priests and seminary brothers, lied to by bishops, treated poorly by a Cardinal. I have faced financial ruin because of these people. I have watched my family’s faith foundation which I spent countless hours over the decade building ripped out from under us by men who were supposed to be our Shepherds.
Bishop Woodie White of the Methodists tells a great story about this. He went to Boston University’s Methodist Seminary which was falling prey to the progressive movement at the time. He said, “I was taught in seminary, at the time, that the Devil didn’t exist. After I graduated, I went to my first Administrative Council meeting and discovered that they were wrong.”
It is in the Church that we find judgmentalism. It is in the Church that we find booth builders who are like Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration, who want to capture the moment of their life with Jesus in a booth so that they can control the rules of engagement with God: not too close, thank you.
It is in the Church that we find Vacation Christians for whom Sunday is a vacation from the “real world” and their “real” participation in it. They act as if moral decisions that are hard are not realistic and therefore their faith has no impact on the world.
It is in the Church that we find Power Broker Christians who have set up their fiefdom in their little Church that is dying, but rather than invite “others” they would rather watch it die because it is what they can control. They can welcome who they want to welcome and deny those they want to deny.
It is Fr. Larry Hennessey of Mundelein Seminary who taught us that the Seminary is the place where the Devil is most active. Who waists resources on the fringe, when they can kill their enemy by stabbing it in the heart?
So, if there are these “bad fish” in the Church, then why believe? Why go to Mass or Services? Why bother?
That is indeed the very question the Devil poses to each of us Christians. He tempts us, helps us betray God, and then points to us and says, “Why bother if they can’t resist me?” It is the first two parables we heard today that captures the reasons.
There are people who do find the Kingdom of Heaven in the midst of a life that they feel is meaningless and worthless. They encounter God and he says to them, “you are worthy enough for me to die for you.” They encounter a God who loves them when everyone else uses them and calls it love. These people give up everything they have to follow Jesus and love Jesus. It is these good fish that set the table that has cups of love which run over.
It is these people who visit the prisons and give hope to the chained. It is these people who are the first on the scene of a natural disaster to give help. Listen to the names of the organizations that are present: the Red Cross (originally a religious institution), United Methodist Committee on Relief, Catholic Relief Services, Baptist Disaster Relief Services, and the Red Crescent. For all the bad rap that religious people get these days, it is the religious of the world, those who have sold all they had to follow God who go to the places that no one else wants to go.
As Americans, we are so busy running to suburbia, we will rip out a housing project where the poor live to “rehabilitate” the neighborhood not even asking the question my faithful mother asked all my life, “Where are the poor going to live now?” Seriously, who would leave European wealth and go the slums of Calcutta if they were not called by a God who loves even the least of these.
God doesn’t necessarily deliver you from your poverty. He doesn’t take away your mental illness. He doesn’t necessarily heal you of your cancer. He may not give you the wealth needed to keep you from filing bankruptcy. Yet, what he does give you is a community of faith that teaches you that this is not what life is about. There is a meaning that is well beyond whether or not we have the proper color of cloth on the altar, whether we have “received Christ” like everyone else in our denomination, or whether we dress properly for Church (I hope my kids don’t hear that).
It is a God who says to you, “I have loved you, with an everlasting love. I have called you and you are mine.” Unless you know what that is like, I cannot explain it to you. There is a liberation that says, no matter what you throw at me; prison, hunger, disease, loss of career, loss of home, loss of life, you will not take away my dignity because I am a citizen of Heaven. As a citizen of heaven, I take the Kingdom within me everywhere I go. As a citizen of heaven, I have the right to speak truth. I have the impetus to speak tenderly and kindly to those who are being persecuted and objectified. I have a place in the court of the mighty King of Kings and Lord of Lords and you cannot take that away from me. You may rape me. You may steal from me. You may cheat me. You may drive me from my home. It does not matter because I am a child of God, I am a child of God, I am a child of God, and you don’t mess with a child of God.
In the face of all that life throws at me, in the face of all the bad fish in the Church who want to thwart my every action and the fulfillment of may calling from God, I have the belt of truth. I have breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace on my feet, the shield of faith in my hands, the helmet of salvation on my head and sword of the Spirit drawn from its sheath. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and my God has given me meaning and a mission and I intend to live it to the fullest for it is a pearl, a treasure to be in love with the one, mighty, living, loving inspiring and captivating God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So, here is the warning label: Becoming a Christian might be dangerous to your emotional, physical, familial, vocational and social health. All those who want to serve God be advised: you are in for one incredible ride. Amen? Amen.
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