the view from the pew 4-8-17

This being Palm Sunday weekend I guess it is OK to call Saturday’s service, Palm Saturday.

.Our songs were many and varied. We opened with “Majesty”, not a hymn but a praise song. Praise songs, just in case you don’t know, are like pop songs but about Jesus. You could say they have a ‘catchy’ tune but convey a serious message. If you have ever watched the television show, South Park, there is an episode where the main character, Eric Cartman, decides to make money by writing Christian songs. Instead of creating anything original he merely takes existing ballads and where a singer sings, “I love you, dear” but substitutes “Jesus” for “dear”. This isn’t to suggest how praise songs are written, only that praise songs can sound like current songs on the airwaves. The song for the sermon was “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna”. I used to work for the Holy Cross preschool and if we never sang this song with the children, we should have. It would be a great song to teach young children. It has a mature melody but lyrics fit for all ages. The offering song, “Change My Heart O God”, is what I call a ‘muppet song’. The tune is sing-songy and the lyrics simple to sing. Our Communion song was “Do This in Remembrance of Me”. If you put a hymn and a praise song in a juicer and let it run for a minute, this is the song that comes out. A very nice song, a pleasant melody but with serious lyrical intent. Our recessional was “You Are My King”. This is a popular song at Christian youth camps.

.The congregation was showered with the ‘usual’ love of God, if there is such a thing as ‘usual’ love from Him. We prayed and we confessed our sins (and rightly so) and were forgiven. We recited Scripture and shared Communion with Jesus and our friends. One thing I have noticed recently is on the days we share Communion, it is preceded by stating The Nicene Creed. On days we don’t have Communion, we recite The Apostles’ Creed. I wrote a Lutheran pastor online about why this is so but his response was to explain the difference between the two creeds.

.Pastor McClean’s message was about trying to attain excellence in the church. I left my notes sitting on the pew where we sat so I will do my best to remember them. Pastor started off by asking when is doing ‘just enough’ the right thing to do? In school, you might be able to do enough to get by and earn a diploma. Contrast this with studying the best you can to get better grades and maybe earning a scholarship to school. This helps ease the financial burden on your parents. Doing your best in school is also a way to show your appreciation for the taxpayers who fund good teachers, bus transportation, security and meals.

.When you work, is it OK to do just enough to get along with coworkers or just enough not to get fired? But if you apply yourself to your tasks you can help the company perform more efficiently. This helps management make better business decisions for the future. Can the company then afford to give higher wages or guarantee job security? That’s what they are hoping.

.When you attend a church, is it to show up one hour a week for worship then decide if you got anything useful from a 20 minute sermon? Or to find a friend to set up a business meeting or a golf date? Or just to be seen? Church/worship is so much more than hoping to learn spiritual life hacks, increase business revenue or make a social statement. Are these what make your Sunday mornings excellent? Is all that talk about being a loving neighbor, a serving wife, or an obedient child just sound nice but not really practical?

.OK, so what does a church do? It exists to help the lost and undone.

.How can it be excellent? With the love of Jesus.

.Churches can be funny places. Because what they offer isn’t a commodity but a free gift, salvation through The Lord. Churches don’t pick the pockets of its members nor can they levy against bank accounts. The money they use to do the Lord’s work comes more from the heart than the wallet. Churches must constantly make wise decisions when it comes to deciding where to direct its resources. Does a church buy the best equipment it can even though lesser brands may work just as well? Are buying cheaper types of lecterns, kitchen equipment, or pews cases of not being ‘excellent’?

How much time and effort does the church offer feeding the hungry, clothing the homeless, or sending missions overseas? The more money and effort you direct to one means the less you can give to others. In your estimation, if a church focuses on mission but less on hunger and clothing, is the church being excellent because you support spreading the Gospel? Or if you are a cheerleader for social justice causes, is your church doing less than it should because you think the hungry are a more pressing need? What counts more: making disciples of all people like Jesus said or feeding the poor like Jesus said? On one hand, souls are saved, but on the other, the poor go to bed hungry. Or the hungry have satisfied stomachs but souls are lost because they didn’t hear the Word of God? What makes an excellent church to you?

.Churches are made out of Jesus+people. Jesus gives us joy through the hope of salvation and through this joy Jesus can use us to offer Himself to other people. Only through His love can we love others without regard to how we might benefit. Only through His love can we trust to tithe our earnings. Only through Jesus’s love do we dare offer our first fruits, our skills, our devotion, and, if need be, our lives for His kingdom. As in the other two examples, we can show out appreciation to those who support our efforts. We can do the same in the church by showing our appreciation for what He has done for us by sharing the same with others.

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