Church Is More Than Donuts
#ChurchIsMoreThanDonuts is the podcast for June 25, 2017. What do a foreign exchange student’s love of donuts and Jesus’ call to discipleship have to do with the Church today. Mark Kurowski believes that it should refocus us on what should really happen in our churches and in our lives. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Donuts #ChurchGrowth #Discipleship #Worship #CoffeeBar #ParkingSpaces #ChangedLives #Addiction #Cocaine #Jesus #Healing #Forgiveness #TransformingtheWorld
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For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 6/25/2017 The 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 10:24-39.
Before I tell you a story, I just want to say, “It is not about the donuts.”
We had a foreign exchange student who lived with us for a year. We couldn’t exactly demand that she go to church, but because we went to church, the program expected her to go as a “cultural experience.” Of course, we didn’t know that until a few months into her being part of the program, although SHE knew. So, to comply with the program, when we brought it to her attention, she went. When we got home, I asked her, what did you like most about Church? She said, “The donuts.”
Whenever we would start talking about things that happened at Church her eyes would get glossy and her mind would drift off. I would try to bring her back to reality and I would ask her, “What are you thinking about?” She said, “The donuts.”
When I would have her with me and I would be discipling someone, as I was inviting them to church, she would say, “And the donuts are SO GOOD!” I have to admit they were good donuts, but, Church, following Jesus Christ, being a Christian, is “NOT. About. The. Donuts.” If our church is about the latest show we can put on, or about the coffee bar, or the beautiful building, or the hippest way we can present ourselves, then we are totally off base. Those are donut churches. [I don’t want to be a donut church].
The Gospel Lesson for today comes from a larger section of Chapter 10 that tells the story of Jesus sending out the disciples. He sends out disciples with the authority to drive out demons and the power to heal the sick. Think about that. The mission was to go out and to restore people’s lives. You would think that this would be a mission that would bring great success, great accolades, great admiration. It is, for those who are restored and want to be restored.
You may say, “Who wouldn’t want to be restored?” Let me tell you, anyone who lives with an addict can give you at least one story of how the addict usally wants nothing to do with being restored. If they do, it is a battle with the Devil himself.
Someone once told me about their cocaine addicted family. The parents AND the kids. When the one good child in the family decided to sober up, the other members of the family were so outraged that they brought cocaine to the sober addict’s house to get that person to get back into the family way.
Those are extreme examples. Just have someone fall in love with Jesus, which is what we are really about. If someone starts to take their faith seriously, you can hear the taunts: “Oh, she is a GOOD girl now,” “You know, he is a Bible thumper now,” “What a Jesus FREAK,” “Oh, let me warn you, Mark is religious now.”
If you haven’t noticed, those who are “good girls now,” “Bible thumpers now,” “Jesus freaks now,” and “religious now”, they are happy. They are making good decisions that are healthy. They are limiting the number of people in their beds, which brings stability to life. They are deciding not to steal anymore, which makes the bank account less, but the clear conscience so much better.
Faith in God does mean that we change our behavior. It means we limit ourselves to one spouse, treating our bodies better, remembering we are loved and deemed worthy to be loved by the Father in Heaven. It means we are healed and the demons that were haunting our lives are being driven out.
Jesus is clear in his granting of that authority to every disciple (yeah, you and me). We are people whose mission is to bring healing and stability to life. When you follow Jesus in the Way, things become clear. Rather than having to redefine what it means to be a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a human, we are brought into line with what God knows: he created us beautifully.
That is a message that causes people to hate us, ironically. When you drive out people’s demons and heal them, the demon possessed crowd and the sick crowd don’t take to that kindly. They see it as a condemnation of them, a rejection of them. They will lash out in different ways. In St. Matthew’s day, it was to kick that person out of the family. Sons and daughters were no longer welcome. Mothers and fathers were rejected.
In an attempt to “be more consumer oriented” because “people have choices,” we might be tempted to change our message. We might sit in a committee and thinks we need to add a coffee bar, designate parking spaces for visitors, craft a more “beautiful liturgy”, be “more relevant”, or get better donuts. Jesus warns us that if we are afraid of the crowd, our fear is misplaced. If we have to have fear at all, then it should be a healthy respect for the God who created all things. It should be for the one who has the authority to give us the ability to drive out demons and the power to heal the sick.
Just flip through the TV channels, or listen to people at work or school, there are so many demons and so much sickness. The millennial long pandemic we are facing as humans is the notion that we are not loved and are not good enough. People do not know that God loves them so much that he allowed his Son to die a horrible death so they could live with him forever. God blesses them, even when they reject him. God wants them to come to Church, yes, but NOT for the donuts.
The Father wants them to come to Church because Church ought to be a place where lives are transformed. Where, when you walk in the door you are loved, not judged. Where, when you keep walking in the door, your life is changed by the encounter with Jesus Christ in the way we treat each other, the way we pray, the way we sing, the way we read Scripture, the way we preach, the way we teach, the way we celebrate the Eucharist, and the way we go forth into the world to spread the forgiveness of sins and kindness toward the lost, the lonely, and the least.
So, friends, church may have good donuts. Church may have parking for visitors. Church may have a coffee bar. Church may have beautiful liturgies, or be clean and tidy. Yet, the Church is not about any of those things. The Church is none other than a dynamic community centered in its love for God and humanity where we live to love or we die trying. As the Lord points out in this Gospel Lesson, in so many words, that is a life worth dying for. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2017.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Executive DirectorSpiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian