For my write-up on church today, I’ll use as my starting-point the prayer of confession:
“Eternal God, we celebrate the courage of kings who left their homelands and their own people to follow a star; we marvel at their quest to honor a child whose power was announced in the heavens above; we would do anything to be a part of their story—-as long as it requires little effort or sacrifice on our part. Forgive our feet of clay, O God. Open our shut-up hearts to the mystery made known in Christ, that others may behold in us, the blessings to be found in journeys worth taking. Amen.”
Part of this prayer rubs me the wrong way. What’s wrong with doing a good deed that does not require much effort or sacrifice? Why does there always need to be a sacrifice? I remember reading a book of sermons by John Henry Newman, and I did not finish the book because Newman seemed to be implying that I’ll go to heaven if I do good works that are inconvenient to me—-and he actually used the word inconvenient. I once read a comment by a Christian that was criticizing those who simply donate money to their local food pantry, without actively involving themselves in ministering to the poor. But isn’t it good when people give something, even when they’re not particularly sacrificing?
I led the liturgy today. One lady there has taught in the public school system, yet she is terrified of getting in front of the church to do the liturgy! I was curious as to why, and she responded that kids are not as judgmental as adults. She also said that she liked to feel a sense of peace when she was at church, and so she avoided getting up front to lead the liturgy. But she told me that she helps the church in other ways. And she does. Whenever our church has a rummage sale, or something like that, she is out there all day—-monitoring the tables and keeping the books. In my opinion, it’s best when we can serve by doing what we’re good at, rather than trying to do things with which we’re not all that comfortable. As Paul said, Christians have different spiritual gifts. Not everyone is a healer, an evangelist, etc.
But I do think that there’s a place to be stretched, to come a little bit out of our shells or comfort zones. But how does one distinguish between avoiding something that one is perhaps not good at—-something that can disrupt one’s peace of mind—-and a deed that one probably should do in order to grow a bit?