Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rent to Own

We've embarked on an ambitious project to raise 10 million dollars in order to repair and refurbish the church on the occasion of its 200th anniversary. We have to fix the roof, point the bricks, repair elevators. We want to redo the interior front of the meeting house to accomdate morning and night worship, create a better welcome area and spruce up the Fellowship Hall. One of the things that's hard to remember when you attend Park Street Church is that the buildings literally belong to the congregation. It's our responsibility to keep them in shape. Maybe the reason it's hard to remember this is that our congregation is so transient; people who feel like renters instead of owners. We're only here for a short time, so the church isn't really my church. This isn't a recent reality. Ever since Park Street became engaged with the ebb and flow of university life, it's known the ebb and flow of congregational life. People come and go with the frequency of the seasons. Alas. Nevertheless, the ones who came before us made sure that we had this place on the corner to come to once it was our turn. And even if our stint has been a short one, surely our (good) experiences here make us want to leave the place in proper shape for the ones who'll come next.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Upside of Hypocrisy

It was the 17th century French writer, Francois de La Rochefoucauld, who first suggested the upside to hypocrisy when he quipped, “Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.” His point, I think, was that at least when you’re a hypocrite, the morality you’re faking at least looks like morality. Al Gore can get caught consuming 20 times the national average of electricity in his 20-room home, but at least his message against global warming gets heard. Mitt Romney can do his chameleon bit as he races from Blue State to Red State, but at least issues of social significance get debated. The Pharisees could cheat their way around the Ten Commandments and fail to practice what they preached, but at least they preached it. Yet hypocrisy infuriated Jesus almost more than anything else. Why? Is it because God (who alone is able to see the heart) is forced to look at all our inconsistencies? We know that being saved by grace hardly makes any of us sin-free; if anything, it makes the sins we continue to commit seem even worse. Would it be better to let our true selves show instead of trying to keep up appearances? Honesty and humility are the only cures for hypocrisy (empowered by that same grace), but we Christians still haven’t managed to figure how to help one another pull down our masks and risk it. We’re just too afraid of what we’ll see; or worse, we’re too afraid of what others will see in us. Best to leave the darkness of our hearts to the eyes of God?