Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The gospel of simplicity

Just the other day a friend of mine from the Church of Scotland, sent me something abut the "prosperity gospel" so prominently found in many of the churches on both sides of the pond. This became something of a starting point for my own rant.

Louis's article got me to thinking. It also made me angry. I'm older now, past fifty, and have sat in many a pew over those days with many denominations. I've sat in small English parishes, as well as large metropolitan churches in the United States. It's quite different now, white haired and all, and being in the pulpit and looking the other way. And having worked in an inner parish setting for the past decade with Hawaii's homeless and mentally ill, has made me see things from a totally different perspective.

I hate being judgemental, but the gospel of prosperity, that following God will somehow magically make us each wealthy, have happy marriages and families, and solve all of our problems, is in a word "stupid" and "unture". It defies both logic and personal experience. Life is not that way, it is simply not true, and moreover it is not the what the gospel teaches.

Not to sound preachy, and forgive me if I come off that way, but the gospel and good news of our loving God, is that we are meant to be servants of others, givers to others, especially to those in need. We are meant to be transformed, changed, and made anew. Making money and being successful is not the measuring rod of one's peity, or of God's blessing. Rather from how I read the gospels, it seems just the opposite. We will be graded on how we treat others, and especially those who are more needy than us.

The gospel of prosperity is a false one demensional lie. It certainly was not Jesus's experience, and it has no place for the St. Francis's and Mother Teresa's of this world, and cannot explain their radical behavior of fleeing the riches of the world, of the "successes" this world has to offer. And as I continne to read and learn about the history of the Chrisitan Church, this theme of sacrifice is one of the greatest parts of the Churches history. And yet it is precisely this counter culture approach that the church needs to reclaim today instead of just simply blending into the world, into the cultural landscape and disappearing altogether. 

Hey I admit it, I'm biased. My own faith tradition is one with a long history of serving those in need often in the inner city setting. Of standing side by side with the poor and needy. My heroes include the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and the Mendicants to name a few. Here's my challange to you. The next time you see one of these talking heads on TV, turn the TV off, and begin reading about the lives of some of the great saints of the past such  as St. Francis or Dominic. Many of these saints were successful in the world's eye, but this opinion was not enough for them. Something in their hearts and experiences longed for something more than the best of the world had to offer. The desire of their hearts was met in following Jesus Christ and in serving others, and often that meant the poorest.

It seems to me, this presents another opportunity for us to continue to be counter cultural and to develop a different way of living, and of believing.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sipping in Seattle

This past week I had the chance to finally visit Seattle, Washington, where I attended some work related training. I had never been to Seattle, or that part of the United States before, and was looking forward to it. Seattle has the reputation of being "with it", home to Microsoft, home to many "green" notions, and home to Starbucks. Hey, and the fish and salmon chowder are some of the best I've even had.

What a change weather-wise from Hawaii! It was wierd to wear long shirts and a jacket once again. There was a light misty rain almost every day which reminded me of Scottish life in a good sense. I also found a great Irish pub where I drank a few Guniness's and had a vegetarian pasty. Funny, but almost everywhere I go I seem to find a great Irish bar.

One evening I had to chance to hook up with another priest in the Celtic Church, Fr. Sean Lotz, who has a small church named St. Ita's. Fr. Sean is an amazing guy, and is the "official" liturgist of the church. Want to know something about the liturgy of the church-Fr. Sean is the man. Sean has written many wonderful Celtic publications, including The Felier which is a calander of saints for Celtic Catholics which can be purchased here. Fr. Sean also has a blog which explores Celtic prayer and meditation and can be viewed here. Visit St. Ita's if you ever get to the Seattle area.