Monday, March 26, 2012

Putting it all in the right perspective

The First Commandment: (Exodus 20:2-6)

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. "You shall have no other gods before me. "You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

It's interesting sometimes how that you learn things about God and our lives from places you expect to be learning about something else. While I was completely aware that taking a seminar on finances at a church would indeed be based on biblical principles of stewardship, I did not quite expect to be thinking so much about our relationship with God in such detail while contemplating our financial situation. One of the questions evoked a response from my heart: We must structure our lives around God, not try to structure God around our lives. 

I've been contemplating that line since the class on Sunday afternoon and it struck me how in our present society our lives are structured around so many things. We take a day off work to go fishing. We take some time off work to go visit family. Or even, I'm going to take this Friday off just because I don't feel like going to work. It's so common that we will take time out of our life to spend with others, or to do something we enjoy, even to go see a 'Super Bowl' or Hockey game.. then we Christians say something like, Oh I'd go to church.. but I have to work this Sunday. I would help at the soup kitchen, but I just can't seem to find the time.

At some point we have to think that our day of Worship should be more important than those other things! Shouldn't we consider taking a day of vacation to go to church? Or to take some time off to go to a spiritual retreat? Or to put aside some of that vacation money that we normally save up to get away, to instead spend time growing in our faith? What are some ways that you can restructure your life around God? 

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Domestic Church (cont...)

You and I are the domestic church. I just want to further talk about what I envision this as. First and foremost, it's important to realize that while we have people in authority, we are also a nation of priests. We spiritually have a responsibility to take that seriously. That means that in our homes, we too are first and foremost the priests in our home. The first responsibility of the domestic church, is to lead their flock. That means that we have a huge responsibility to know our faith. We need to be able to explain who we are, what we believe, and to teach our children and families what our faith is about and why we believe as we do. That is part of our vocation as the family, as the domestic part of the church.

That is a huge undertaking, being responsible not just for your faith, but in helping with the formation and understanding of the faith of the entire home. Many people leave the domestic church here, this is all they envision it doing. Yet, we know that a church has more than just a priest. The priest is indeed very important, and the church could not serve it's purpose without his guidance and more especially his service at the mass. But there are other people who help make the church run smoothly.

One of the most important ministries of the church is the greeter. They stand by the door before and after mass, welcoming people with polite conversation, a hand shake, and sometimes a hug (all based on the personality of that greeter.) Their purpose is to make the church a welcoming place, to invite people in warmly and help people out of town find their way into this parish for a visit. The greeter is the face of the church so to speak, because they are the first person seen. The first impression is often the most important, because it 'colors' the rest of your perception.

We as the domestic church are also greeters! We ourselves are the face that people see in the world. We ARE the ones they remember, the people who 'color' a persons experience with our church. Think about that responsibility for a minute! Ghandi once said, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. The materialism of affluent Christian countries appears to contradict the claims of Jesus Christ that says it's not possible to worship both Mammon and God at the same time."

If we the domestic church had been doing our job... Ghandi would have been welcomed. Our Christians would be much more like our Christ. So I challenge that each of us, the domestic church, must indeed become greeters! We must welcome people into our homes, our lives, etc. Some ways we can do this is simply being kind to our neighbors.  Simple actions speak volumes. Not running the lawn mower when they are having a get together in their yard, or asking if they need help carrying something that looks heavy. Even simply taking their trash cans up for them at the end of the day, when you do your own.

Be the face of Christ in the world.. greet people warmly and serve them so that we the domestic church, will lead them to the Church itself, the Body of Christ, the living word of God!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

It's in the Details

While meditating on the 'Stations of the Cross' on my commute yesterday to pick the girls up from play practice, a detail emerged for me that I had never noticed before. While we talk about how Jesus didn't speak up at times, or how that others accused him falsely, (and you may have already noticed this detail, but for me it is one I'd never spent time thinking about) did you ever notice that no one stepped forth to defend Jesus? There were many who lied about him, spit in his face, beat him, condemned him... but this man who had just spent three years traveling the country side healing the sick, feeding the poor, loving the broken, forgiving sins, and raising the dead... had no one step forward and declare his innocence. Granted they might have lost their life for doing so... granted that it was a different time, a different stage... but it still brings a potent thought into our present time.

Are you willing to stand up for Jesus? Do you stand idly by while others make false accusations about him? When others deny his deity, or claim he is just a man, do you step forward with confidence ready to drink the cup with him? 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Domestic Church

We, the families and members of the church are the domestic church. The domestic church lives in our homes, and is part of the witness of Christ. It's also an important part of evangelization. What exactly does that mean to the family? To the husband and wife? To the children?

To answer that it's helpful to think about what we expect in a church. We expect it to be welcoming first off. That's a big part of why people leave many churches, they don't feel they belong or that people are friendly enough. As followers of Christ, we are supposed to be known by our love for one another. Sometimes when we go into a church we don't find that welcoming spirit, we instead see people glancing over at one another, or someone angry about where you are sitting (it might be their usual spot). Sometimes we truly aren't feeling welcome, at other times it's our own insecurities or perceptions making us feel out of place. Either way, our homes as part of the domestic church should be welcoming!

Think about that for a minute. Do people feel welcome in your home? Do they feel comfortable? Do they feel loved? Do we take time to make sure our home is ready for unexpected guests? I know I fall short in that aspect, often FAR short of it. Our family and friends should feel they can drop in at anytime and be greeted with love and open arms. That's something I personally need to work on. I'm one of those people who if the house isn't clean (which it often is not), I don't want guests.

That brings me to another thing that I fall short on. We expect our churches to be organized, and clean. How many of us would complain if the church had clothes all over the hallway leading to the sanctuary? Or had dust on the shelves all around? Our homes don't belong to us, they belong to God. They are simply gifts he has given us. That's a hard thing to think about, for we often treat them however we want and leave them in disrepair, and put off cleaning till later. I am the worlds worst offender of this, and as a stay at home father I should be cleaning daily.

What other ways can we make our home into part of the domestic church? How can we witness our faith through our very lives? How can we the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers be a living example of Christ in the world?