Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Create In Me A Clean Heart

A church is a house of worship and as in any houses of worship, it is only normal to assume that the people God will try to follow (to the letter) the commands laid down by God. But, different gradients or shades sometimes they become, especially when it's our own wisdom we apply. And I've begun to see the wisdom of this verse... Let your yay (yes) be yay and nay be nay (no). It actually cuts out the gray areas which complicate our (others') lives.

Imagine going to church and Sunday after Sunday, you see the same groups of people running the different areas needed to run a service. Well, I mean you have a few groups and these few groups are rotated every week... but you see the same faces at the same stations. Worship leaders, musicians, PA people, ushers, scripture readers.....

These groups are tightly knitted and it's hard to break through... Service is by invitation. Institutionalizing God has made the worship of Him an institution too. The institution becomes the defacto voice of authority - that's where sometimes the danger lurks. Anyway, you've got to fulfill a few criteria before you are invited into the inner circle. The inner circle membership is opened but it's much easier if you are a family member or perhaps a close friend.

Then, you must be deemed ready. You say, Here I am, send me (Isaiah 6:8) or Here I am, you called me (1Samuel 3:5). It worked for Samuel! But wait! Readiness is not really dependent on the one on the outer circle. One has to be assessed first. If you are deemed ready by the inner circle to be a worship leader, even though you may sing off key, you'd still be in. If you are deemed ready with your skills to turn those knobs at the PA system or have the ushering demeanor, then you will be allowed to sit there. In the meantime, those on the outside continue to look and wait expectingly or in some unknowingly. You've got to wait for your turn to be issued the license.... by invitation. Membership offers privileges of its own - a sense of belonging, meaning, importance.... as in our politics of the day.

But then again, like everywhere else, the church too has its own group of less fortunate. These are the people who need the extra push and more difficult to include, even to love. These are the forgotten and faded. They may offer of themselves or may not but mostly they'll stay by the sidelines, till they are forgotten. These too are deemed not ready, or suitable or available.... but these are the ones who need this every little bit of push and opportunity to serve. Sometimes a little opportunity does wonders. Yet....

The leaders then exhort the people to live a Godly life. We are reminded to ubah our mindset and bear with the difficulties that come our way. The congregation are told that hardships are challenges that will make us stronger. We are exhorted to make the sacrifices for the good of the congregation and community. Churches have annual camps. The congregation is encouraged to attend. They are promised an uplifting time. They are reminded that the speaker is dynamic. Yet, sometimes the leaders keep the best camps or trips from the knowledge of the flock. Only the select and strong in faith get invited for those special trips.

Over the pulpit teachings remind us that it is by grace that we are saved. Yet that grace is sometimes evidently lacking. Or sometimes it is extended only to be retracted... words from our mouths are often unreliable.

Changes come difficult because minds and ways are set. We talk about humility yet a broken and contrite heart is more often hidden in the closet. Cos that's the way how things have been. Else, many hundred years ago, the practice of indulgences would have not survived that long. But we insist on the way that we know... only we know, as the bishops and priests said they knew better so long ago.

What is clean may just be a perception sometimes for what is clean to me may not be to others. And that's when trouble starts, grace reduced, humility lacking. Oh the church is not actually bad. It does much good, it offers much solace and comfort... but create in me a clean heart.

In this season where the clarion call is to be clean and to ubah..."Create in me a clean (pure) heart, and renew a right (steadfast/faithful) spirit within me.

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