As I am writing this in a nearby coffee shop, a group of Buddhists are discussing an event they are holding. They are talking about what most of us talk about when having meetings. What food will we serve? Who will come? Who will complain?
I guess I was hoping for some sort of meditative prayer or something really different. I was hoping that they had something to offer this expert eavesdropper. They really don’t. They are just like the rest of us. Frustrated with people, tempted to gossip about others, basically they are human. Their uniformity of costume has not really changed their humaneness. They still struggle like the rest of us.
I find a lot of comfort in that. I used to think other religions had some sort of market on God. The deeper I have dove into the Christian faith, I realize more and more how frail our humanity is and it really does not matter which religion you choose, we are all broken humans.
I have not really seen a major change in most people who are religious. I think that most people are generally uninterested in others at face value. Most would rather look into the vastness of their phones, than look up and relate to someone else. Most people do not want accountability or others to spur them on. People are just trying to fit in and not cause too many waves.
I find this in the church as well, which makes sense, the church is defined as the people of God. Faith did not really change them long term. I think initially they “turned from sin”, but as time has gone on they have slowly turned back to it (I know I have incrementally). A lot of people I know have made the slow turn so far back, they no longer believe much of what they first did.
I know that God does not give up on these people, nor do I, I give up on the methodology of how they practiced their faith. In some ways, they have “faith without works”, in others they are just trying to survive the busyness of their lives and the onslaught of weekly commitments. At some moment God was no longer useful to their everyday life.
As an ordained pastor for the past thirteen years, I have worked on staff at three different churches that were vastly different congregations. In each place, very few people really shone the light of Jesus. Often one of them was on staff as a pastor, sometimes the custodian, and most often it was the people just “got it done”. They were normally the faithful few that showed up in people’s lives outside of the church walls. Most of the custodians I have worked with took their job seriously and were some of the most faithful people I have known. As I looked for the most faithful Christian, I looked mostly at how and what they did outside the church. This showed me a ton. Who showed up at the hospital, the jail, at the house of someone who was sick with food in hand, and some who brought homeless people into their home to help them make a life change. These people are the followers of Christ who keep me in the faith.
I could really care less about good music, great preaching, or worship service, they have their place, but I have much more affinity for those who are on the “frontlines” of the faith. Those who serve the homeless, poor, widows, and orphans, These are the people who call me into a deeper faith and help me to see what Christ intended of us. I think that they call all of us to look beyond what we think a faithful person is. I intend to use the rest of my days to serve the orphan, through my mentoring and teaching. This is my choice and it has directed me to lean into the God who first taught me to love unselfishly and forgive voraciously. In Him, I move and breathe…