In my mailbox this week I found what may become an Lenten annual: another blatant example of idolatry, another human attempt to create a god in its image, another slot-machine divinity of jumbo payoffs, a deity completely congruent with one of contemporary American society's most brazenly unsubtle gods—consumerism. From a skinny envelope I unpacked purportedly a face of Jesus, sketchily represented crowned with a thorny tiara; four-color printing is the graphics industry standard, but this is a two-color likeness! In addition, nowhere in the mailing could I find either a web address nor an email address—in this year 2005?!?!?!During Lent 2006 I received another CPR, but that year's blog was more tempered, less sarcastic, more formally theological and conceptually broader: Remembering and Belonging; to quote briefly from that post:
The Tithe: who owns us? To what Lord do we answer? Of whose property and assets are we stewards? It's about caring for the gifts we have, about sharing and using them in service to others--Church Prayer Rug and its ethos notwithstanding, the way of the prophets and the way of Jesus of Nazareth is not exactly about petitioning heaven and getting a windfall in investment capital, real estate or social position! Yahweh of Shalom sufficiency is the God of Jubilee Justice, Lord of commonwealth, not a deity of superfluous particular wealth. Jesus' God is the One who gifts with extravagant mercy and boundless love and whose Spirit draws us together in Pentecostal fire. Now really, does that sound like the tawdry emptiness of the Church Prayer Rug god's casino-style payoffs?Last year, in 2007, I didn't take time to reflect on the CPR, but the opened envelope still is in the diminishing stack of papers, etc. atop the rosewood table in the living room because I thought I might need something to blog about, never imagining so very early this year I'd receive my very own Church Prayer Rug right in time for Epiphany! A giant plus: this letter clearly was meant especially for me, since the street address read:
Resident - to a Friend, #### Xxxx St Paradise XX #####-####Now I have new information and revelations! Besides the same pair of pieces as in the previous mailings, this year they included two more: a letter headed Sunday, January 2008 and in ALL CAPS, "PROPHETIC WORD GIVEN FOR YOUR SPIRITUAL EDIFICATION." And hear this message:
A SIGN FROM THE LORD ABOUT YOUR FUTUREHowever, the two websites (finally!) were the true revelation, because they helped me discover this St. Matthew's entity is sort of what we in the mainline would consider a denomination (denominated "St. Matthews") or a church body (there sure are lots of member branches (hundreds), and the about PrayerRequests site informed me, "You who attend one of Saint Matthew’s Churches know who we are, from our church’s free literature that you receive from us." I guess that's not me, or maybe it is, since this is the 5th time I've been a recipient of their free lit! I'll describe St. Matthew's as a church chain or chain of churches, possibly patterned after a retail chain store model, but the folks of St. Matt's expect a pay-off rather than to be paying-in according to a standard, conventional consumer model.
IMPORTANT - Only break open this sealed prophecy after you have put this Church Prayer Rug and your prayer requests back in the mail [by the way, on the section that features a full-color likeness of Jesus ascending on a cloud, it tells me I need to return the prayer rug and prayer page "before sunset tomorrow or the next day to this 57-year-old church ministry"].
If for any reason you are not going to return this Church Prayer Rug, then this sacred prophecy must be destroyed, unopened and unread, [but I've already opened and read it and have no intentions whatsoever of destroying this valuable cultural and ecclesiastical(?) artifact] because this is a sacred, spiritual prophecy, sealed word, concerning you and your future. Remember, the Bible says,
"Let your requests be made known unto God." Philippians 4:6
From the "About" site you can:
Open the Door to a New Tomorrow;
About St. Matthew's Churches;
read a lot about it, get phone numbers and general info;
After all, for a fact, Old time Bible prayer really does change things;
and a resource for Daily Prayer.
This Bible ministry of prayer was established in 1951. ©
Most of the website pages are images I assume are copyrighted, so I'm not displaying any of them here, but you can follow the links and check them out for yourself.
To continue, I'll include a few prayer request suggestions from on the mail-back-to Prayer Box 21210, Tulsa, OK 74121 page, all of them solid: do you need, do I need St. Matthews' to Pray for my family and me for...My Soul; A Closer Walk With Jesus; Confusion In My Home; My Children; A New Car...[to reliably get to work, appointments and church]? ooops! I was supposed to read my "faith, Holy Ghost instructions on the enclosed, sealed prophecy, only after [mailing] this Prayer Rug back to the church." Then maybe it won't work for me, after all. In addition, I was supposed to "Use this unusual, important, Church Prayer Rug for tonight only."
To conclude on this Eve of Epiphany, this year I'm again tempering and softening my words about the CPR...
Most of the protestant mainline and to a lesser extent some of the churches and church bodies that are further from the center and closer to the edge and that historically have been on the edge (at this moment I'm thinking of Mennonite and Brethren Churches, as well as of the Moravian Church that has been one of the ELCA's full communion partners for the past few years) have been considering the nature and mission of the church, especially in terms of the how to be missional and incarnational, since our corporate "we" has read out of scripture missional and incarnational as the way (probably) to be authentic and effective (yes)! followers of the Way of the Crucified and Risen One. A few days ago in my layout for 2008 on this far by faith, I described how I'd be
developing a 3- or 4-class series for both of *my* congregations, basically based on Reform Jewish scholar Mark D. Nanos' The Irony of Galatians: Paul's Letter in First-Century Context. ... Galatians was the first ethnic church, and in both [congregations] we need to acknowledge our own, sometimes unconscious ethnicities and learn realistically to contextualize our outreach and proclamation authentically yet inoffensively within our neighbor's identities...imagining surprising ways to contextualize its witness and proclamation to nearby neighbors.On this Epiphany Eve I'll acknowledge St. Matthews' entities are right-on about our needing to pray, about God's faithful, abundant response to prayer, and about our need for basics like "enough", shalom-full food and housing, good relationships and decently-built vehicles that don't break down in the process of getting us where we need to go. In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther explains:
What is meant by daily bread?
"Everything required to satisfy our bodily needs, such as food and clothing, house and home, fields and flocks, money and property; a pious spouse and good children, trustworthy servants, godly and faithful rulers, good government; seasonable weather, peace and health, order and honor; true friends, faithful neighbors, and the like."
Regarding the CPR, for this year once again I'm asking "where is the cross?" in all this printed material, though I'll admit they (sort of implicitly) acknowledge Jesus' sovereignty by including an ascension pic. But from my own, basically mainliner side, as I jump into researching demographics and funding sources while doing some numbers-crunching and anticipating preparing more teaching and worship materials I hope and trust will bless and enrich others' lives, I know all too often my prayers in preparation for my own work and ministry too frequently are perfunctory to the point of "Of course I need to get God in on this endeavor" and I still trust myself and my own efforts far too much. IOW, I'm almost reluctant to raise my own needs, desires, heart and efforts to heaven. Then has the CPR taught me something, have I learned and grown from this series of mailings, despite it all? I hope so!
from the High Weirdness Project!