Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Faith in a vaccuum

As I am reading Acts I am confronted with "the church" at every turn. This is hard for me. I know congregational ministry is how my bills are paid every month. But, truth be told, it is hard for me. I have often joked to David that church gets in the way of my faith all the time. Many jokes are told with truth lingering just below the surface.

I am in the middle of a conversation right now with a friend about his discouragement with organized religion. He is struggling with how to be a Christian without the trappings of church. I have been there. I am not a huge fan of the institution. I want to break the rules. I thrive in change. Creativity and reinvention are what sustain me. None of these are traits that the church is known for.

So, what now? Here is what I believe to be true. One can certainly be a Christian and live in an isolated situation. However, I don't really think we can be spiritually formed or have our faith refined unless we are prepared to live in community with others. There is just nothing that softens the edges quite like having to deal with people that take patience. And taken one step further as we are called to do in the community of faith...nothing softens the edges quite like learning to love people who are different to ourselves.

And so, as Acts keeps reminding me, God adds us to communities of faith because He knows that is where we are most transformed into His image.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Faith & Justice

For those of you who are reading this from Amarillo, I am not talking about Channel 4 news, but it is the perfect segue. We have a local TV station here with two night time anchors, Andy Justice and Faith Miller. What a deal for KAMR. Their news slogan is.....(drum roll) Faith&Justice working for you (or something similar).

And as I am about to tell my High School religion students this is no coincidence. Faith and justice go together because that is what God designed from the very beginning. The Old Testament is cram packed with references to God judging the hearts of those who are mistreating the weak, the alien, the under represented. Micah 6:8 says that God requires us to be people who Act Justly, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly with Him. Jesus' ministry is defined by His compassion and His care for the least of these. He tells us that when we ignore the plight of the thirsty, the hungry or the naked, we essentially ignore His plight. We read on and see that true and pure religion is defined as taking care of widows and orphans.

I have had my students looking at these verses and some shocking stats from Unicef on the real conditions of food, medicine and basic supplies around the world. One of them said, "this is just depressing" and wondered why I am making them face these things. My answer to her leads me to this post. It is a harsh reality, but empowering. Once we face the real condition of our globe, and we take the time to investigate what we can do, we can make a difference. And so I assigned them each two websites to read through and answer some questions about so that they can see how they can make a difference. We checked out everything from Tom's Shoes, to Christian Relief Fund to Kiva Microfinancing. I asked them to answer several questions about the organization and how much it would take for them to get involved in just one project. The tougher question was for them to look at their spending habits and see what it would take for them to divert money that usually flows to their entertainment etc and put it to one of these projects. It does not cost us that much really to make a difference in just one area. Buying a mosquito net from NothingButNets.net is just $10 and that can save a life. For $10 really? Just two trips to McDonalds. Hmmm..

We are taking the lesson a little further today with a field trip to Natural Grocers to hear a short presentation on Fair Trade/Equal Exchange. I am not trying to get them to spend every dollar on non profits or never drink a cup of Folgers again. I just want them to know their are options and choices where they can make an impact on the world. With Valentines coming up I thought showing them Fair Trade chocolate seemed like a good option.

Friday I have them reading a section from Irresistible Revolution and then hopefully this will lead to a school wide project or focus where we as a school can think beyond ourselves and make a mark for Justice on the world. Not because we want to be social activists (not that I would have a problem with that as the reason) but because we claim to be people of faith. And I firmly believe that faith should lead us to justice.