Pages

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A Post-Easter Meditation

Much of the world celebrated the resurrection of Jesus last Sunday. Another large portion of the world noticed Jesus, heard the name in some form, but did not celebrate. Still another quite smaller portion of the world didn’t even notice. In America, though, most people did notice Easter.

However, as I think a little bit deeper about Easter, I think most people probably did miss it. Huh? How could people miss Easter? I mean let’s be honest, 3 billion dollars worth of candy is pretty hard to miss.

Yes, I think people realized a holiday of some kind had occurred. And yes, people really did notice Jesus (and the Easter Bunny). Lots of people got up at sunrise to honor Jesus. But I think that they missed him. I’m not going to compare Jesus and the Easter Bunny here; I want to go deeper than that.. What I think people missed is the enduring meaning of Easter. Now, before you quit reading because you know where this is going, hold your horses. This is different.

If Jesus really died and then rose from the dead, and Christians aspire to be like Jesus, then Christians need to take Easter Sunday with them on Monday as well. What this means is dying themselves.

No, not physical suicide, but death to the things that they are attached to, entitled to, feel connected to - the things with which so many Christians have affairs. I’ll camp out on one, but with two parts.

The first is personal money. If Christians are serious about Easter, they need to die to their addiction to money. Consumerism, capitalism, and individualism have run amuck in the Christian church so badly that it is “normal.” How much money was spent on Easter clothes? Let’s say a church of 1000 people averaged $25 worth of new clothes for Easter (many people buy nothing new and other go to some great expense). BOOM! That’s $25,000 worth of unnecessary crap Christians feel entitled to. I bet that same church collects that in a special contribution for mission annually.

The second is corporate money. Christian churches feel compelled to have land, buildings, and various assets. The more I think about it, the worse it gets. Utilities alone is a fortune, and then there is insurance, maintenance, upgrades, repair, and on and on. Missions, relief, social justice and other things that require resources typically come after churches take care of the “fixed” costs. I’m not 100% against buildings. I think the Impact Houston Church utilizes their buildings in excellent ways. However, for most churches, their buildings are “the church” are treated like “the church” and protected as “the church.”

What would a congregation do if it suddenly had no building? Well, it would find a way to get a new one. What a waste of time. Why not reorganize and shift the focus of resources to the people who really need them instead of the people for whom a comfortable life gets even more comfortable?

When churches have a building, it is impossible to resist the belief that attending a weekly worship service is what being church means. It’s not! Wait, let me try that again IT’S NOT!!! Our buildings, and the way they structure our lives give meaning to how we believe church life to be. If there is a building, then church life is going there.

However, if there is no building, then what does church life look like?

The church of Jesus, the Jesus of Easter stands opposed to wealth as an entitlement for those who earn it. The church of Jesus gets excited about wealth as a surgeon gets excited about having new surgical instruments that will help save lives. The surgeon never boasts of his surgical instruments or merely hangs them on the wall for everyone to see what he or she has. No! The surgeon uses those tools for the benefit of other people, the people who need it the most.

May the church of Jesus come to know Him in their hearts.

Let me know Him in mine.

12 comments:

MaryAnn M said...

yes yes...but that dying to self thing? its so...uh....inconvenient....so...uh, painful....so...uh, Biblical?
necessary!

right on, bro!

David U said...

Chris, we have many idols......but I believe you confronted us with our biggest one. I think we could give up most all of them, but this one I am not sure. We feel it is ours, and that somehow we "earned" it. Don't ask me to give up MY wealth. What part of the USA was the rich young ruler from?

Great challenge today.......thanks!
Painfully thanks, but thanks.

DU

Clarissa said...

This just really jumped out and grabbed me, Fajita ... I don't consider new clothes for growing children to be "unnecessary crap". Bodies need to be covered with something, don't you agree? For me, the only option for my two older ones is to buy them something new -- they've outgrown last year's clothes, I don't have access to hand-me-downs, I don't have time to sew, and I don't have time to wander aimlessly through consignment stores with impatient children in a double stroller, hoping to find something appropriate that fits.

[I know this doesn't address your overall point. But that got my hackles up a bit, so I vented. Only because I'm sure you're tough enough to take it.]

MichaelPolutta said...

Clarissa,

I don't mean to pick, but I think these are 2 different things. Needed clothes due to outgrowing the old ones is one thing. Buying "Special Occasion" clothes solely because we want something shiny and new on Easter is something else - similar to the Sunday Fashion Parade.

Chris - thanks for the recasting and challenge. I really benefit from your writing.

Michael

Fajita said...

Clarissa,

I'm honored! I can't stand it when I get someone's hackles up and they say nothing - just think it at me. Thanks for taking a moment to share.

Michael caught my drift. New clothes and new Easter clothes are different in my mind. The difference is that new clothes are necessary, whether they come from older cousins or Wal-Mart or where ever. And even there I hesitate. No kids needs hundreds of dollars of clothes on.

Easter clothes are the expensive, I'm-only-wearing-this-once-and-I'm-done-with-it-forever clothes. That's something else. Thrifty people who need new clothes and coincide buying something resuable with the Easter holiday are just smart.

What really gets me upset is that we teach our children (mine are 5 & 7) to become comfortable with being high end consumers from birth. They don't have a chance. It is so common for church people to indulge, indulge, indulge, the children when they are young, and then wonder why our teenage kids are narcissistic. Well the answer is that we gave them a decade long lesson plan for it. How else are they going to think, believe, feel, and so forth?

All of this said, I run the risk (commit the sin) of being double-minded. Talk of money suffers when the object of comparison is Bill Gates vs. African AIDS orphan. I'm poor compared to my banker friends and rich compared to my welfare friends.

And for the end point. I know personally what it is like with the double stroller. I applaud everyone who pushes one. Trying to turn one of those suckers without one of the lame wheels buckling under is a chore.

Clarissa, nice post.

Fajita said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJG said...

The clothes thing... not a problem. I have also been trying to be a good steward of my personal wealth... I would really like to pursue the "no building" or simple building approach to church. Yet, I am not sure I can give it up either! I agree with you that this is the way it should be, but can we do it?

MaryAnn M said...

our ex-church has 3.1 million in "assets" and only owes 124,000 on the mortgage.
and it is NOT a fancy church at all. sinple little southern church with a little bit of land around it.
They said it needs new carpeting (the estimate before we left was 20,000)
new paint in all rooms...even if we do the painting ourselves it is expensive....
WHAT IF we could use that money to make a dent in the poverty in our city?
what is the point of getting new carpeting if we are going to fret and worry about the kids who will spill juice or smoosh animal crackers into it?
put new paint up? only to get all disciplinary because the children put their hands on the walls...

this is why I am currently out of church. My money is going to where my heart is.
TALK ABOUT BEING A CHEERFUL GIVER!!
THIS is IT! I LOVE writing those checks out now...daringly...exhorbitantly...hilariously.

and yes, Clarissa..there is nothing wrong with new clothes...or new anything.
the point was taken...Do we really need the Easter bonnet,Easter dress,shoes,gloves,purse,corsage..suit,shoes,tie,new shirt...if every OTHER Sunday we wear "regular" clothes. I gave up on buying "church clothes" long ago. If they didnt like my kids wearing their sneakers...too bad. I was NOT buying 4 or 5 pairs of Sunday Shoes a year so they could be worn only to church...Jesus doesnt look at shoes..why do we?

Clarissa said...

Oh, okay. I guess I never really learned the concept of "Easter clothes" as you describe them. I had what I had. But it was fun to rant for a minute. I'll have to come back and do it again sometime.

Keith Brenton said...

I just really don't know how to live in the same universe as people like Larry James.

Unless that means following Jesus' advice to a rich young ruler.

Besides, my wife bought those two Easter shirts and ties for me and brought them home. And I will wear them some other time besides Easter. People will wonder why I'm wearing a tie with Easter eggs on it in October, but I'll wear it anyway.

Doggone it, Fajita. Now I have to go to bed feeling guilty.

Nice, firm bed with a fluffy pillow in a cozy house ...

Doggone you!

Fajita said...

Clarissa,

I'm honored! I can't stand it when I get someone's hackles up and they say nothing - just think it at me. Thanks for taking a moment to share.

Michael caught my drift. New clothes and new Easter clothes are different in my mind. The difference is that new clothes are necessary, whether they come from older cousins or Wal-Mart or where ever. And even there I hesitate. No kids needs hundreds of dollars of clothes on.

Easter clothes are the expensive, I'm-only-wearing-this-once-and-I'm-done-with-it-forever clothes. That's something else. Thrifty people who need new clothes and coincide buying something resuable with the Easter holiday are just smart.

What really gets me upset is that we teach our children (mine are 5 & 7) to become comfortable with being high end consumers from birth. They don't have a chance. It is so common for church people to indulge, indulge, indulge, the children when they are young, and then wonder why our teenage kids are narcissistic. Well the answer is that we gave them a decade long lesson plan for it. How else are they going to think, believe, feel, and so forth?

All of this said, I run the risk (commit the sin) of being double-minded. Talk of money suffers when the object of comparison is Bill Gates vs. African AIDS orphan. I'm poor compared to my banker friends and rich compared to my welfare friends.

And for the end point. I know personally what it is like with the double stroller. I applaud everyone who pushes one. Trying to turn one of those suckers without one of the lame wheels buckling under is a chore.

Clarissa, nice post.

Clarissa said...

Oh, okay. I guess I never really learned the concept of "Easter clothes" as you describe them. I had what I had. But it was fun to rant for a minute. I'll have to come back and do it again sometime.