Archive for October 10th, 2006

Being the Church

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

Today’s scripture: Hosea 6:1-6 (NRSV) (Contemporary English Version)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two before reading on.

My thoughts (Kay Olry):

I have just left the sanctuary of JMCC. I signed up for the weekend “Prayers for Darfur” — not because I think that I’m any great prayer warrior, but because doing something sounded like a better idea than doing nothing, and because prayer changes things. When I finished praying, I walked around the church lobby looking at pictures of villagers who had been beaten, shot, raped, and killed. The images were difficult to look at, but I didn’t turn away. I kept my focus on them, as difficult as it was.

For the last three years, I have effectively ignored the carnage in the Sudan. I have managed to turn off, turn away, or ignore the images from the heart of Africa that have tried to make their way to me. A confessed news junkie once upon a time, I used to produce news stories when I was in the Air Force. Several years ago, I made the conscious decision to stop watching and reading so much of the bad news that the world repeatedly produces. I am embarrassed to admit that it took me three days before I recognized that Hurricane Katrina wasn’t “just another hurricane”.

In the same way, I’m realizing that Darfur isn’t “just another African problem”. For so many years, there’s been so much bad news coming out of Africa that I think we’ve become numb to it. How do we put our heads and our hearts around millions of people displaced and 200,000 dead?

Here’s how I did it today. One picture caught my eye; it wasn’t even a picture of the tragedy. It was a picture of a village before it was wiped out. There were 10-15 homes in the village — each little more than twigs and grass, which each family had carefully put together. Each home had a sleeping area, and a separate covered area about 10 feet away. Their carpet was dirt; the roof of the central area was the open sky. They had almost nothing — and then it was destroyed.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to talk about being “the Church” to one of the Discipleship classes. We talked about what it is that God calls us to, and what it means to live in Christian community. As part of that conversation, I encouraged them to look not only at our local church, but also to the Church in the world. Rather than looking at so many Christians who are “doing it wrong”, I encouraged them to try to catch the church “doing it right”.

The tragedy in Darfur is ongoing. At times, the task of trying to help seems overwhelming due to the enormity of the problem. Yet, in spite of the obstacles, there are thousands of Christians who are trying to be the hands and heart of Christ to these people who have lost so much. Locally, we’re praying to determine what, if anything, God would have us do. I won’t pretend to know what form, if any, this ends up taking. I only know that it’s important to start asking the questions – and to stop turning away.

Today’s scripture ends with this: “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” The book of Hosea was an allegory for God’s relationship with Israel. Israel kept turning away from God and God kept giving them second chances.

For me, it reminds me that my Creator doesn’t want me to be about the outer trappings of faith. God wants a relationship with me, and wants my love. The best way for me to show that love is to be like Christ to someone else — to be the Church in the world — even to people half a world away.

Thought for the day: What can Jesus MCC do for the people of Darfur? What can I do?

Today, let’s join together in prayer for: The women’s softball team, who instigated our prayers for Darfur. Pray that God would continue to give them wisdom and discernment going forward.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. Use the item above as a starting point, or consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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