Friday, March 11, 2016

Attention KMart shoppers, we have a blue light special in aisle five.

A common occurrence in our world today is the phenomenon known as church shopping. It has become so common in fact that you can almost say that it has reached an epidemic proportion. People are desperately searching for the church that fits them the best. They are always looking for the church that has the best music, or the best pastor, shortest sermons, or best donuts and coffee after the service on Sunday. In many ways it resembles dating. When my needs aren’t met it’s time to end the relationship and take off to find the next best church.

It seems to always follow the same course. People bounce around between the different mainstream Christian religions, the Catholics, the Lutherans, the Methodists, the Presbyterians. Eventually shoppers find their way to one of the many nondenominational churches or even join one of the mega churches of our day. If they search long enough many leave altogether. They can no longer find the relevance of church in their lives.

The motivation for shopping is always the same. The shopper is looking for something for them self. They are looking for a church that makes them feel good. They are looking for a church that entertains them. They are looking for a church that they get something from. Why not? Why attend a church where you feel bored or where you don’t get fed the spiritual food you are looking for?

In other words we church shop for purely selfish reasons. It is all about me and what I can get out of it. But then church isn’t about me is it? I do not go to church to get. I go to church to give, to give worship, praise, and thanks to God. God is the reason for church, not me.

Jesus came to earth to start a church. He did not just start any church or every church. Jesus started only one church, the universal church, the Catholic Church. Jesus started the Church and then instituted her leaders – the first twelve apostles. Jesus lived with the twelve and passed on to them both his knowledge and his authority. He then sent them out to teach, baptize, and to make disciples of all nations. He didn’t tell them to write a book. He did not tell them to build a temple. He told them to teach and teach they did. They were the original magisterium and they passed on to their successors everything that Jesus had passed on to them.

All other Christian churches were founded by men who believed they knew better than the Church Christ founded. Martin Luther and John Calvin, the pioneers of the reformation, didn’t leave the Catholic Church because of the abuses and corruption. They stated very clearly that any human institution would suffer such corruption. They left because they thought their personal theologies were better than that of the Church of Christ. They mainstreamed church shopping.

When one is baptized they are adopted into the family of God. Technically speaking there is only one Sacrament of Baptism and that sacrament brings one into the body of Christ, the Church. There is no such thing as the Lutheran Sacrament of Baptism or the Methodist Sacrament of Baptism. There is only the Sacrament of Baptism instituted by Christ to confer grace. Every person who receives this sacrament is in reality baptized Catholic.

I was born into the Collins family, with the Collins identity, and the Collins genetics. I am a member of this family whether I want to be or not. My neighbors are Hispanic. They have much better food than we do and much livelier music. They laugh and hoot and seem to have much more fun than my family has. Is it possible for me to cease to be a Collins, cross the street, and become a Martinez? No, it is not. Even though I am in the Martinez house, eating the Martinez food, and dancing to the Martinez music I am still a Collins. Nothing can ever change that.

Likewise, I was baptized into the family of God, into the body of Christ which is the Church Jesus himself established. This is something that cannot be undone. It does not matter if I like the sermons in the Lutheran church or the food at the Methodist church or prefer the entertainment at the mega-church. I am Catholic and belong in the Catholic Church.

I do not go to church to get anything. I do not go to church for the music or the sermon. Church is not about me or how I feel. I go to church to give, to give God worship and praise. I go to church every Sunday and pledge my oath to Jesus in the flesh that I will live my life for him and die for him if so asked. I cannot do this in any other place but the Church Jesus created.

My relationship with the Catholic Church is one of covenant marriage. I am not in a dating relationship that I can end when I no longer am getting something out of the relationship. Marriages that stay faithful bear fruit, even through the dry times. Marriages that stay faithful do not go out in search of self fulfillment. Faithful marriages are never about the self, they are about the other. They are sacrificial. They are agape.

If you have been courting different fruitless spiritual relationships maybe it is time to look at the only one Jesus arranged for you. It is time to stop shopping and to come home.

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