The apostle writes, "And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more money than all those who are contributing in the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on." (Mark 12: 41-44)
Backing up the truck a little, before all the happy hoohah started with the Bible readings, I was soured by this week's confession and absolution, which, in summary, was essentially all of us uniformly asking God for forgiveness because we were shitty, greedy and self-serving with our personal finances. Metaphorically, I was seeking God's pardon for buying a $14.99 monkey sock Dorky Hat, when I guess I really should've donated that money to my church, lest I be scorned and pleading for redemption. Yet, as Luther taught us (and yesterday was his birthday!), we deserve God's temporal and eternal punishment for Everything We Do Wrong, and we should be Damn Grateful for the brow-wipe of reassurance that God is gracious and merciful, in light of the fact that humans are Total Jerks.
Still spiking an Election 2012 fever from time to time, as the hate mongering and sore loser-dom of the pained fiscal conservatives and trounced elephants continues to funnel cloud ill will towards the President, I related to the poverty-stricken widow who gave her last penny to the synagogue, Pastor saying the din of her uniquely clinking little coins caught Jesus' ear and he turned it into a Teachable Moment. (Jesus did that a lot.) I thought once again about the $8 I scrounged to back Obama (yes, my Christian brethren, if it is, as you say, God's will for the "proper" person to be the leader of the free world, God chose Barry, not Mittens) and how I really didn't have that money to give up blithely, but if was for a cause that resonated in my heart. Thought shifted to the $800 million dollars Romney and his minions far and wide put into their bid to overtake the country, and I couldn't help but laugh because in the end, my $8 was a greater contribution to the country than $800 million.
Anyway, we had this rousing sermon about the prophet Elijah assuring a different poor widow (it was Poor Widow Weekend) in the Old Testament that God would see to it that she had enough oil and flour with which to make bread to feed herself, her son AND Elijah (no parmesan for dipping, though, I assume, and I'm guessing this is unleavened bread, because nobody mentions yeast), though what she had left appeared to only be enough for one small loaf of bread, and to trust in God that her bread-making would abound and she should just chill out. Then the sermon segued into the above referenced Gospel lesson, while Pastor reminded us that soon it would be time for us to fill out our annual commitment cards for 2013, indicating how much we would financially give to the church and how we would use our time and talents to lift the Lord up high within our congregation.
The sermon and offering gathering seemed incongruous to what followed: the monthly stewardship statement (which I always half-pay-attention to in the first place, which takes like 10 minutes, during which I read the weekly dreadful "Contemporary Faith" leaflet, which I'll get to in a second). The stewardship statements are our monthly congregational reminder (they're always essentially the same, just emphatically pronounced diversely, or so I gather as I overhear) to give until it hurts, whether that's with our time, talents or treasures, especially the treasures.
To be clear on one thing, I don't support the idea of a tithe to the church, chiefly because one's personal finances can be rocky and unpredictable from month-to-month, and if it boils down to a choice between feeding my family or throwing extra in the offering plate, the decision for me is an easy one, which is not rooted in greed but is logical, pragmatic and sustaining. I give what I can when I can financially, while St. Paul can count on me showing up every 2 weeks to give hours of practice and energy into drumming for the Contemporary Band as my more intangible (yet no less important) contribution to the congregation.
"Contemporary Faith" this week was called "Our Civil War." It was a 2-page bitch fest about the decline of morality in our country, coyly implying how the "modern family" is immoral and not rooted in Biblical principle, e.g. homosexual families, as well as attacks on the "frustration" and "insecurity" of the job market, income, insurance, crime and drugs. Far be it for the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod to acknowledge that there are indeed "progressives" within our religious denomination who believe in God, worship God, yet are not bound by the old-fashioned mores and Old Testament laws. The fact that they put "progressives" in quotes speaks volumes in the first place.
"The 'progressives' seem to be in the majority, controlling and directing the debate. By contrast, Christians are not united. Some Christian denominations even choose to side with those who say there are no common rules that apply to everyone and that there is no final court of appeal. Only forty years ago, no one questioned the definition of a family. Everyone lived as though there was a moral order in the universe, that certain patterns of behavior should be followed, and that other kinds of behavior were unacceptable to everyone, not just to Christians."
Who writes this stuff and what drugs are THEY on?
Wait, it gets worse. "Contemporary Faith" goes on to attack a veritable gift God gave us by virtue of our logical minds: the power of reason. God employed humans with reason, but I don't think He expected us to, well, actually USE it. Gasp! "Reason" to fundamentalist Lutherans is kind of like a spleen--you have one, but you're not exactly sure as to what it does, you don't think about it much, and if it's removed, you go on ignorantly happy with your life.
"...For the past three or four decades, those who call themselves enlightened (their italics) destroyed the common moral bond. They considered themselves independent of any authority and based everything, morality included, on their own reason. Reason gained a hold, and in recent years we have seen what happens because reason does not speak with a single voice. We now have a muddled debate over what is right and wrong..."
Reason, amassed? BEDLAM! ORGIES! Reason is, according to whatever sophomoric, homophobic, conservative, small-minded, neuron-reduced Lutheran who is allowed the privilege to pen this drivel every week for the sole purpose of pigeonholing Lutherans further into their cozy bubble, justification by the "progressives" to conduct their lives independent of what the majority of other fundamentalist Christians collectively accept and deem "moral."
My favorite self-deprecating homosexual man, the inimitable George Takei, Tweeted it best, from the Star Trek mothership:
It's hard to believe--wait, actually it's not hard to believe at all--that there are congregants within my own church who are so steeped in denial and forceful about their conservatism that they publicly question whether or not there are actually (and I quote) "Christian Libs." Hi. Liberal Christians exist. There are Christians who are good Christians who Totally Lean Left. "Christian Libs" are like "Mad Libs." We insert the foulest nouns/verbs/adjectives/adverbs/pronouns at our own discretion to form a cohesive yet hilarious-when-read-aloud story. Liberal, Progressive Christianity: More Fruit, Fewer Nuts.
This particular long-time churchgoer and her family are vehemently Anti-The Offbeat Drummer, vocally enough so online (when they were still allowed access to my Facebook world), that they would either argue every Not Totally Lutheran position I took on Issue Whatever, troll my blog (while saying to others online that I actually "frightened" them, as I checked off tick marks by the hours they spent reading my work) or complain to their friends and loved ones about what a heathen heretic I so clearly am. Listen, Chickie Babies, *I'm* not the one, cough cough, who earned the apt nickname of "The Bride of Frankenstein" at St. Paul. (I'd be giddy to know *what* nicknames I *do* have at church....)
Needless to say, Frankenbride and her ever-multiplying brood, which includes male versions of the bloodied, murderous identical twins in "The Shining" and their wives & sperm/egg Lil' Scrambles, cast me off their interwebs many moons ago and stay as far away from me as possible at the off-events at church during which we are forced to inhale mutual, public oxygen (e.g. the church picnic. Otherwise, I rarely, thank God, see them). Being the sneaky beaver I am, it takes two to troll, so using my Satanic Visionary Powers, I am afforded glimpses into the online realm of this family anyway because I channel them through a Ouija Board. (These are the brainiac people who, when they did spend hours on end crapping their pants over my blog, did so under a domain that included THEIR OWN LAST NAME. Cue eye roll and side-of-head slap.)
It'd be a fruitless exercise in wasting your synapses inquiring as to whether or not Frankenbride voted for Mittens on Tuesday. A quick scroll through her page littered my virgin eyes with openly racist slurs foul enough to make the Black Panthers spray paint her car, to the point where she posted that "some other evil force" in the universe allowed the re-election of
The Antichrist President Obama. And if you're looking for pictures of a) European castles, b) purple flowers, c) Farmville achievements or d) TONS AND TONS OF UNBORN FETUSES IN UTERO, do suck up to this woman and grit your teeth via friending her online.
There was nothing so uproariously ironic and humorous, though, than using my powers of reason and intellect to conclude that she's never actually read my favorite Russian novel, Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. If she had, she wouldn't have shared a Pinterest board so haplessly clueless that it offered this:
Thank Krishna that I stumbled upon this link, because I was JUST having the conversation in my head (as I am wont to have) wondering what one properly serves when one is tanked out on opium, embroiled in a salacious affair with a handsome Count, fighting with a hateful husband, minding a young child, so unhappy that one decides to throw oneself onto the tracks in the path of a speeding train.
One serves CAKE. (By default, if it's a "Napoleon" cake, it should be a shortcake, no?) Daunting to make? I guess after attempting a complicated recipe, should it flop, one kind of does doom oneself to suicide.
Yes, this is all illustrative of the power and influence of what comprises the Moral Majority in my house of worship, tangent and rant aside. And if you want to deem any of us "frightening," THIS IS A GOOD PLACE TO START. I might be the F-bombing, Hindu-tattooing, "Rosemary's Baby"-watching, AC/DC-listening, Anton LaVey-recognizing, General Petraeus-mistress-fist-pumping, Resident Crazy Drummer Person...but I'm also a baptized, confirmed, faithful follower of The Ultimate Liberal.....Jesus Christ. So raspberries at you.
(PS--By the way, wives? Don't let yourselves go. Seriously. Mrs. Petraeus? No matter how many degrees you hold, the dumpy/frumpy/heavy look will be trounced by the Harvard hottie in a heartbeat. Men are fickle, visual creatures by nature. If an attractive woman wants to write an intimate biography of your husband, it's time to get to a stylist, Weight Watchers, a plastic surgeon and a gym, post haste. Now MY friends are telling me with my Investigative Savvy, *I* should run the CIA. Just saying.)
It's a good thing my minister likes me, because I'm relatively certain he's going to work tomorrow, rifling through the desk and file cabinets, wondering if those forms are under "EX" or "COMMUNICATED." And Happy 529th Birthday, Martin Luther. Had you not nailed your bitchy rant to a Catholic church door, we might all be even more oppressed than we already are.
The Pope is moving to Twitter. I'm eagerly waiting for the random warblings of Benedict the XVI. "More shots fired at the PopeMobile. Bullet proof glass, mofos!" (insert Instagram photo here). I'm going to follow him for the amusement factor, because a) It find it freaky that Catholics have a German pope, b) to keep up on more religious fights to initiate and c) Will he freak out and say "My beanie blew off in the wind, bollocks!?" Come on, Guy Friend, if your tireless, robe-beholding, supernatural, elderly holy leader can be on Twitter, you should maybe get with the program.
God bless and DO try the Anna Karenina cake. It's worth dying for.