It will be a couple of decades yet before today’s 20-something-churches are 40-something-Deaf-congregations. The time to invest in ASL classes is now. Jacob’s Well, like many of the younger congregations we’ve attended, had loud music* [in a small space]. It was, to be fair, not as loud as many (and better mixed — the drums weren’t blowing everything else away): it wasn’t loud enough that we held Farmergirl’s ears . . . it was loud enough that we were still speaking at too high a volume in the Baldwini’s cozy living room afterward. (The Baldwinis were not speaking too loudly, as they attended their own church, and then the first-church-of-fix-stuff-that’s-not-working-at-Grandma’s-house. Given that their Grandma is pretty hard of hearing, you’d expect them to be suffering similar ill effects, but they weren’t).
The focus of this particular service wasn’t the music, though . . . it was the sermon, which, at over an hour and twenty minutes, takes the “longest sermon” prize for the year (thus far–we haven’t gone to a proper Pentecostal or Gospel service yet). It was a pretty good one (the sermon). His initial focus was on 1 Cor. 2, but he wove in Habakkuk 2 and Daniel 2 for a rousing rendition of the stories of Nebuchadnezzar, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (known colloquially to Sunday school children as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), Daniel, and Jeremiah . . . for an overarching point that, in our current stress over the financial crisis and the election — God isn’t “stuck” if we choose poorly. (For that matter, he pointed out: “Jeremiah [not taken to Babylon in captivity, prophet in Jerusalem] got the short end of the stick: he gets to work with God’s people” — complete with the rueful emphasis on that last bit that only a pastor could muster).
But I got to thinking . . . maybe we aren’t the faithful, carted away to a foreign land . . . maybe WE ARE Babylon.
Last week, at Deep Chat, in the face of our president’s advice on 9/11 to get out and shop, our multi-front war “on terror,” the current financial debacle on Wall Street (with its global-reaching consequences), and the upcoming US presidential election, the question of American complacency came up. If we’re so against the war, one of the participants asked, why don’t we simply stop paying taxes? What would it take for us to risk doing the right thing? What would it take for ordinary Americans to take to the streets and demand change? Are we so enamored with all our cheap crap from China that we don’t dare risk discontinuing paying our taxes to support a war we despise? How does our consumerism mesh with (even feed) our complacency?
I mentioned a story Jesus tells (in Mark 10, Luke 18, and Matt 19) about this very thing (this is my paraphrase).
A rich guy comes up to Jesus and asks him what it is he should be doing.
Jesus says, “Okay — here’s what you do: sell everything you have, and give it to the poor.”
The rich guy cleans out his ear with his pinky as says, “Um? What was that? I don’t think I caught what you said, exactly.”
Jesus is a pretty nice guy, and pretty patient, so he slows it down: “Take all that stuff you have. Sell it. Give the money to the poor.”
And the rich guy is just standing there, and all he can think is, “ . . . Crap.”
Last night, Pastor Eric of Jacob’s Well picked up on the same theme: Fundamentalists are concerned that there will be a literal “Mark of the Beast” — some numbers tattooed on their hands or on their foreheads that wil allow (or prevent) them from engaging in commerce. He suggests it’s not literal — that people already
“have 666 tattooed into their minds and hands…all they think and do, is motivated, controlled, determined and influenced by the spirit of mammon. A reviving of a Babylonian mentality that robs the poor, exalts materialism and militarism and continually prides itself as a World Power worthy of worship.”
Maybe we ARE Babylon.
*They warmed up to U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” They also did about the only version of “Come, Now is the Time to Worship” that I’ve found tolerable. (I liked it enough to dial my friend Jimmie, who does like the song, so he could listen to it . . . I should make a follow-up call to see if they did get the call or not).