WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? Part 2
There are some common longings in many people's hearts today, such as...
An end to wars, and to the terrible ways we treat each other, even with our words.
An end to the merry-go-round of acquiring more and more, with less and less fulfillment.
An end to the isolation and loneliness that besets so many.
In the last post, we shared that Celebration of Christ is a congregation of the Church of the Brethren, a 300+-year-old denomination with its roots in Germany. The Brethren share many of the doctrines of the Reformation because our founder came out of the Reformed Church. We also are known to be a fusion of Anabaptism (with emphasis on discipleship and community) and Pietism (with emphasis on a devoted heart of prayer, Scripture. obedience, and works of compassion). Because of this, we can offer some answers to the aching needs mentioned above. Last time, we looked at or stance of peace and non-violence, choosing to radically obey Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount and live in a different way, not returning evil for evil. Sometimes this can shut off toxic argument and fighting in a creative way. But we continue to live this way, even if it does not always bring about the hoped-for end. Because Jesus did.
This time we want to take a glimpse at the second need. Ever get tired of the "rat race," and the need to "keep up with the Joneses" that is fed continually by Madison Ave. ad companies? Every get weary of working long hours with not enough rest because you are convinced that you need more things and more financial security? That great "theologian," Lily Tomlin, once said, "The problem with being in the rat race is that, even if you win, you're still a rat." There is truth in that statement, because the root of our dissatisfaction and discontent is our sinfulness, which manifests itself in greed, among many other things. Now you might say, "I'm not greedy, I just want my basic necessities." And that's fine. But those necessities often filter over into luxuries without our even realizing it. We need to face facts. Compared to most of the rest of the world, even many of the "poor" among us have it pretty good. The things we take for granted today, such as running water, bathrooms, air conditioning, motor vehicles, cell phones, and more would have been greatly coveted by ancient Kings and Emperors.
Jesus had a totally different take on our :stuff." You'll find this in Matthew 6 in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Among other things, He said:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store u for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also..."
"Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear... (because Your heavenly Father cares for the lilies of the fields and the birds of the air, and He will take care of you) ... for the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:19-21, 25, 32-33)
We Brethren refer to this as "the simple life" or "simple living." One older Brethren statesman put it this way. "Let us live simply so that others may simple live." This means when we live with less, we have more to give so that others may have more.
The Apostle Paul also addressed this issue in several of his letters. In Ephesians 4:28, he tells believers to stop stealing and start working to earn a living (of course, that should be obvious, but he doesn't stop there) so that they have something to share with those in need. The earnings of Christians are not supposed to stop with providing us the American Dream, but to make us generous people, because God has been so generous to us.
In 1 Timothy 6:6ff, Paul writes "But godliness with contentment is great gain/ For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." He said some similar things in Philippians Chapter 4. Whatever happened to contentment with simple pleasures? For one thing, we are constantly bombarded by advertising with this phrase: "You deserve this!" Really? Don't fall for that. A lot of other folks are getting very wealthy because we are constantly running after things we are told we deserve.
At Celebration of Christ, we seek to live simply (though not always successfully, because we are sinners still, although redeemed by Christ). Our worship is simple - singing, prayers, and preaching of the Word. Our study of the Bible is simple, using an approach where all can bring their thoughts and questions to the table. Our fellowship is simple - once a month, from September through April, we have a "potluck" after church - which means everyone brings a simple dish to share, so we can eat and share life together. And with our giving? Yes, we urge all to be generous as God has blessed them, but as a church, we are also careful to be generous with our funds, not saving them all for the upkeep of the building and the paying of salaries, but also giving to missions close by and around the world and giving to needs next door.
So we invite you to get out of the rat race and join us here so we can keep on learning together how to be content in a very discontented world. I promise you, it will be good for your soul.