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I compose and post these articles with only one desire in my heart: to praise God and to offer modest help on your spiritual journey.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Wounded Christians

For the last seven years I've served as a hospice chaplain. Prior to
this I was a parish priest, missionary and pastor of a large
congregation. As a pastor visiting a parishioner's home was something
of a celebration. What a surprise that as a hospice chaplain it is
more like pleading to be let in. This isn't personal. It is
institutional. No matter the denomination, I discovered a high number
of homes where no minister, chaplain or pastor was welcomed, even as
patients were approaching death. The reason is the number of wounded
Christians.

Some might take this as a sign society has become more godless. But in
truth, a large number of people have been wounded by the misuse of
religion. Even facing death these wounded individuals are unable to
trust the comfort offered by another minister of faith. All too often
our churches have preferred guilt to acceptance, judgment to welcome,
or setting standards rather than extending mercy.

When Jesus preached and the crowds grew larger he never judged. Jesus
preached a message contrary to religious leaders who abided by law and
expected behavior. In fact he got downright nasty calling these
religious leaders names. But to people in the crowd he simply invited
them to trust that our heavenly Father loved them.

This positive and welcoming message is often considered to be without
merit. Some say this is the soft sell to tickle one's ears rather than
expressing what God really "expects" of us. Yet it is interesting to
note how different Jesus speaks when he is talking to the "public"
than when he is talking to those who want to follow him. He never
demands in public to give all to the poor, or to have only one pair of
sandals, but he does of his disciples. There is much more demanded of
us who serve as religious leaders than those who come to our churches.

I must confess I don't live up to all that Christ demands of me, but
Lord knows I wouldn't be asking those who attend church to do more.
Yet some of us pastors have wounded many a soul by insisting on the
right clothes, staying in abusive or destructive marriages, paying the
right tithe or demanding attendance at our services. How many have
been wounded when they were down on their luck, going through a
divorce, struggling with addiction, seeking a word of comfort at the
time sorrow and not finding solace when they went to their church?

How many church campaigns have there been saying "Welcome Home", but
by the way, you can't take communion until your fully instructed or
you settle your marriage. How many churches who say "All Are Welcome"
but by the way if you're gay you have to repent and change your life?
How many say welcome and here is your pledge card to tithe?

Yes, the door may be closed, not because of a lack of faith, but
because of a lack of love at a church's door.

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