Outsider Gospels, part deux
Some of you may know, I am a bit infamous for my sleep patterns... not exactly in sync with the 9 - 5 world (the expression "Not a morning person" does not begin to even scratch the surface!). As a result, I am occasionally up thinking or ironing or crafting at hours when many people are counting sheep or doing other worthy things. The Info-mercial hours.
These off-peak TV viewing hours must be a bargain for the "direct to" advertiser or the individual who must pay for the airtime. Which might well account for the incredible number of public service ads that run at 1 or 2 a.m. It may also contribute to many tel-evangelists buying (I think the correct expression is leasing) time on local and cable stations for the wee-hours or in the early morning before 9 a.m.
God knows, many a not-very-flattering thing has come from my mouth in the past about some of these latter day evangelists. You may have heard - or made - some comments yourself. All the speaking in tongues and emotion and miraculous healing and jumping and fainting and perspiration (by both preacher and participant). It seems just tooooo much. This isn't REAL. It's all fake - all a bunch of balogna. My own nose was up in the air in a huff of indignation.
Time does have a way of teaching us humility, eh? I can no longer throw that sanctimonious mantle of orthodoxy over my shoulders, clinging to my right way. There are many rooms in God's house, many paths that lead to the same destination - and many travelers on those paths.
Worship services take many forms: this is clearly evidenced in my own diocese where the hip-hop mass in the Bronx is a success. Most of the Episcopal churches in my neck of the woods have traditional row upon row of stationary pews yet there are those that offer the comfort of folding chairs and different seating arragements according to season or occasion. Some have smoke and bells, others sparse appointments and simple language. Some choirs tend toward gospel music while others use guitars and still others are accompanied by string or brass quartets.
It is quite clear that nowadays there ARE evangelists on the TV who are practical teachers and dispensers of wisdom (and probably always were). And for those of us who appreciate a more dramatic or expansive expression of faith there are TV preachers and pastors who can deliver the Word like we have heard or experienced it nowhere else. Our morning worship may be enhanced by throwing in one or two selections from the 'Songs for Worship' series put out by Time-Life Audio (oops! that's an infomercial).
The Word of God will be declared in many a medium by many a preacher and evangelist and activist. The true Word of God, action of God will be understood by discerning hearts. And the discerning soul can differentiate the revealed Truth from anything expounded by a con man wishing to prey on the emotions or sympathies of the lonely or infirm. Here's the litmus test in this situation: Is someone claiming that by making a "love offering" to their ministry that God's will, favor, forgiveness or love can be purchased/bought? NO WAY!!! Change the channel! Kick the dust off your sandals! You have just seen a commercial. However, if you hear a message that strikes an honest chord within you, offers a healthy perspective, or provides you with spiritual food for your journey, it seems like sound stewardship to give the laborer a decent wage (St. Paul will back me up on this one).
So, if there's a night when you are tossing and turning or are up to use the facilities for the third time since hitting the sack and are restless, grab the remote. If you hear something off-putting, keep that finger moving to the next option. If you hear something comforting, some true Gospel (Good News), it just may be just one of the voices of God coming over the airwaves. Amen and Amen.