The Journey 75: Transformation in my parish
Read; Nehemiah 5
Key Bible Verse; Love is patient, Love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs”. [ 1 Corinthians 13:5]
CRYSTAL CATHEDRAL CHURCH: Almost all the news journal like Wall street, CBS News, Washington Post carried a significant news yesterday. The news was about how the famous Crystal Cathedral Church, founded by Robert Schuller has gone bankrupt. The church was earlier sold to the Roman Catholic Church of the Diocese of Orange for $ 57 Million. What a tragedy. Dr. Schuller, his wife Arviella, and his children who were part of Crystal Cathedral Ministries have all split from the church. The reason for the split began with the public feud with the church's board over matters both theological and financial and later it became a family issue too. It's the "end of an era," proclaimed a headline in Los Angeles Times. Robert Schuller had retired in 2006, passing the leadership of the church to his son, Robert Schuller Jr., and then after sometime he fell out with him over the church's direction. The church's income has fallen dramatically since the elder Schuller stepped back. After this development , Schuller and his wife, Arviella, resigned from the church board, citing “a negative environment”. After this it was their daughter Sheila who was pastoring the church. Last weekend, even Sheila Schuller Coleman announced that she was departing as well, stating her intention to start a breakaway church and thus leaving no Schuller family member on the ministries' board of the Crystal Church, for the first time in the church's history. What a sad end to a vision and ministry of a pioneer Christian. One of the aspects of the Christian ministry here in the United Sates and also in India is the mushrooming of family ministry where it is a particular person or a family who controls and conducts ministry and all the financial dealings. The strange aspect of these family ministries is that financial profits and benefits are normally reaped by the family or the individuals who run the show, while if there is a loss, it is borne by the people who are part of this ministry and not by the leaders. There is also a different lesson that main line church’s lie the Marthoma Church and its parishes also need to learn from the Crystal Church. I think message is there on the walls of our parish too.
This week we are meditating on the theme “Transformation in my parish” based on the life and ministry of Nehemiah. We find as we read Nehemiah, that he finally builds the wall in the midst of all the challenges that he faced. But in the midst of the work of building the wall as he faced opposition from Sanballat and Tobiah, he suddenly also has to deal with problems among the Jewish people itself. Some Jews raised a complaint against their fellow Jewish brethren. The complaint was that men could not provide enough food for their sons and daughters because they had mortgaged their fields, vineyards, and houses to get money to buy food, as there had been a famine or drought, while some had to borrow money to pay the taxes that the king had levied on fields and vineyards. Instead of helping these fellow brothers and sisters what some of the Jews did was to use this opportune time to exploit them. What the Jews did was against God’s holy laws [Exodus 21:2-6; 22:25-27; Lev. 25:13-17,35-38,39-46; Deut. 15; 23:19,20; Ezek. 22:12]. Such exploiting attitude of the Jews, while undertaking work of rebuilding the wall, brought anger in Nehemiah. Finally Nehemiah takes certain steps to rectify the issue. What a strange attitude of the Jews. While the leader is busy, trying to bring about a spiritual reformation, some members of the flock is more interested in making financial gains at the expense of their own brothers and sisters. I believe this is a true picture in many of the Marthoma parishes. When there are genuine and committed people in the parish who wants to create a spiritual reformation, it is some members of that parish itself who creates all sorts of problems and issues. Finally you find members and the clergy battling each other, thus ultimately pulling down the cause of Lord’s ministry. What is needed in our parish is people whose commitment are genuine and who can rise about petty politics and financial and personal gains. This I believe includes the leader of the parish the clergy also, so that we all can work together as a team, in partnership for bringing about God’s kingdom earth. Hence let us pause and think-
Are you a part of the problem in the parish or part of the solution? Let us see the cracks on the wall and its message
Let us Pray: God we are sorry that we often think of our own personal gains rather than the common and total interest of our parish. Forgive our sins of selfishness, arrogance and pride. Help us all to work together for your glory. Amen.