Summary: Blessed are those who mourn for our present state of values, for they are the ones who are the hope of the world.
Blessed are Those Who Mourn
May 15, 2005
I read a book a while ago which began with a few very provocative paragraphs.
You may not be a Christian and wondering why anyone would want to be. The religion that inspired the Crusades, launched witch trials, perpetuates religious broadcasting, presents too-often boring and irrelevant church services with schmaltzy music – or else presents manic and overly aggressive church services with a different kind of schmaltzy music – baptizes wars and other questionable political programs, promotes judgmentalism, and ordains preachers with puffy haircuts (and others who are so superficial as to complain about puffy haircuts or whose baldness makes the complaint seem suspiciously tinged with envy ) …it doesn’t make sense to you why anyone would want to be in on that.
You may not yet be a Christian, and you’re thinking of becoming one, but you’re worried that if you do you’ll become a worse person – judgmental, arrogant, narrow-minded, bigoted, and brainwashed. You feel attracted to something good on the path of Jesus, but you wish you could get that “something good” without a lot of extra religious, social, and maybe political baggage. (Do I have to like organ music? Do I have to say “Praise the Lord!” all the time. Do I have to vote Republican?….You wonder if there is any way to follow Jesus without becoming a Christian.
You may already be a Christian, struggling, questioning, and looking for reasons to stay in. Or you may have officially left the Christian community, but part of your heart is still there and you wonder if you might someday return. So many of us have come close to withdrawing from the Christian community. It’s not because of Jesus or his Good News, but because of frustrations with religious politics, dubious theological propositions, difficulties in interpreting passages of the Bible that feel barbaric (especially to people sensitized by Jesus to the importance of compassion), and/or embarrassments from recent and not-so-recent church history. Or perhaps it’s simply boredom – dreary music, blasé sermons, sappy answers to tough questions, and other adventures in missing the point. Or perhaps it’s fatigue – a treadmill of meetings and books and programs and squabbles that yield more duties, obligations, guilt trips, and stress. (A Generous Orthodoxy, Brian D. McLaren. 2004. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. page 15-16).
I don’t know if any of that resonates with you or not. I don’t know if you found yourself in any of those critiques of the church or not. Maybe you think the guy who wrote that stuff is all wet, or maybe you think he might be on to something. I don’t know, but let me talk for a minute about the church that I’m acquainted with.
The very first Sunday of my life was spent in church when my parents hauled me and my older sister over to Forest Park Methodist Church. I expect the last Sunday of my life to be spent in church (I’m not sure which one, but I expect it to be a United Methodist Church.)
Methodism is just one brand of the Body of Christ; one particular way of seeing, believing, and acting. Methodism has its share of the truth, as do the Baptists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Nazarenes, Mennonites, Assemblies of God, Lutherans, Orthodox, Brethren, Amish, Foursquare Gospel, Disciples of Christ, Church of God in Christ, Missionary, Free Methodist, Church of God, Quakers, African Methodist Episcopal, Pilgrim Holiness, Pentecostal, Reformed, Wesleyan, and others to numerous to name here.
It was this wide world of Christian churches that make up the Body of Christ in which I was reared, educated, nurtured, challenged, and empowered for ministry. There are some very good things that happen in these churches. If it were not for the efforts of these churches, the world would be a far sadder place. The Body of Christ is, in my estimation, what makes the world inhabitable.
Within the Body of Christ, people meet Jesus. People come into contact with like-minded individuals who help each other grow in faith and grace. Babies are baptized. Youth are confirmed. The gospel is preached. Bible stories are told and retold. Adults have their lives redeemed and reclaimed. Worship happens which lifts up the glory of God and inspires folks to achieve greater things for the Kingdom.
Within the Body of Christ and all our churches, soup kitchens feed the poor. Micro-loan programs assist persons to build their own businesses in order to escape the ravages of poverty. Prisons are visited. Houses are built through programs like Habitat for Humanity. Missionaries are sent…to the farthest reaches of the globe and around the corner in our city. Military chaplains minister to our young men and women who serve in very difficult circumstances.
Churches and denominations build Christian colleges. We also have a permanent presence in hundreds of state supported colleges and universities through campus ministry programs. We build graduate schools through which people can be equipped for teaching or full-time Christian service.