Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thomas Edison

Oh yeah!  I'm very grateful for Thomas Edison and particularly his light bubs.  If not for him, I wouldn't know what goes off in my head when I have an "aha moment."  I've actually been known to be in the pulpit and say, in real time, "My light bulb's going off!"  (Why is it "dark" when light bulbs "turn" off but it's "light" when they "go" off?  If something "goes" and goes "off" at that, shouldn't it be really dark?  English!)

Well, since Sunday, I've had back-to-back light bulb flashings and they're pretty exciting!  To me.

First, I have my favorite theologian whom I talk to a great deal about young adults and the church.  There are young teens at my church.  There's a lot of good work being done on the current state of 30-somethings and under and their relationship (or lack thereof) to Jesus, the Church, Christianity, and religion.  The young theologians I have personal access to back up everything I study.  There are a few prominent prongs that stand out, but each young person has his or her own story and experience, so everyone's fork looks a little different.  

The overriding main principle seems to be that there are many voices out there: science, all sorts of opinions and sites on the Internet, family & friends, school, and the list goes on.  Those voices are being heard and they're being heard clearly.  The Church isn't.  In many cases, we aren't even trying.  We've thrown in the towel.  Oddly, I'm not sure we realize we've thrown in the towel.  Kids show up to church and we think we've got them.  Better check the light bulb, because it's out.

So, my light bulb's going off and I'm thinking, "How did we get here?  I mean, Jesus had 12 men, MEN, walk away from everything and follow him and he KEPT them for 1 1/2 to 3 years!  How did he DO IT???  Where are the men today????  What happened to the faith that has sent men away for the most part?  And our young people who crave excitement, challenge, helping, did we lose them?  We've got God's voice telling us Jesus is his Son who pleases him and we're to listen to him.  But we'd rather listen to all those other voices."

And my light bulb just about explodes with brilliance.  We've slowly, but surely, stopped modeling the faith.  We've slowly, but surely, stopped telling our faith stories.  People are listening to the voices that are telling them something and often the church isn't on that list.  When we take our kids to church, but don't live what we say we believe, then just as soon as they can stay away, they will and do.  We've shown them we don't live it and it has no power in our lives.  We've shown them that all faith requires is to sit in a pew a few times a year and then you can live, act, and talk like everyone else the rest of the time.

Often, when we adults DO model faith, it's all about us and our young people can translate the "God speak" that comes out of our mouths.  When an adult tells a young person that "baptism didn't do anything for them," what message do they receive?  When a young person's idea of "keeping their eye on the prize" means just getting through the day, or getting through life, where did we mess up in conveying Who "The Prize" is?  When young people complain that all the church cares about is sending people (usually in their minds this particularly means homosexuals) to hell and they don't hear us talk about grace and forgiveness...where do they get these ideas?  And when they perceive God to be a God who strikes children with cancer and begins wars and tells people to kill other people who don't believe like they do...gee.  Where in the world do they get those ideas?

And when some churches do get loud with that stuff, where are the other churches who don't say a word but allow that to seem to be the only "Christianity" out there?

We talk about our youth being the "church of tomorrow, the future."  If we don't start living what we say we believe and if we don't start telling them our faith stories and if we don't let our voices be heard above the rest then we might as well go ahead and close our doors now.  Much of the church of the future doesn't care about the church of today.

And yet.  And yet there's this light bulb going off, not just in my head, but in others' too.  And there's This Light of The World that's the source of power for all these light bulbs (sorry Thomas, it wasn't really you after all).  And This Light Shines in the Darkness and has called His Followers to be Light also.  The Light is actually more powerful than the dark and it is The Light that tells us to shine.

Church, we have the command and ability to turn our collective light bulbs on.  We don't have to continue to be the church we are.  The church we are is all many of us, myself included, have ever known.  And we've got it wrong.  Things that should have been caught and corrected in 1960 have snowballed and that snowball is about to roll off a cliff.  There are churches who are correcting and becoming the Church we were originally called to be; most, though, haven't caught on to what the problem really is.  It is us and because it is us, we have to allow The Light to shine and reveal where we need to take corrective measures to become who we're called to be.  

It won't be easy to undo being the church we've learned to be.  It won't be easy moving beyond our doors when we've been turned inward for so long.  It won't be easy practicing and living what we preach.  Seriously, hold the Word, any Gospel, up to your life/Church and you'll see what I'm talking about.  No excuses or rationalizations.  No "that was then and this is now."  No more dark.  Let the Light Shine!

There are light bulbs.  There is The Light who beckons...we aren't left to our own devices.  It's either His Church or it's not.  He says it is.  His Light Shines...

And I am grateful.