Pursuit of Happenings

Pursuit of “Happenings”

Stan Moody

My wife, Barbara, made a distinction between joy and happiness in our small group session last week: “Joy is rooted in the love of God, while happiness is situational”. The gospel preached by our government (the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) is situational – that preservation of those rights depends on what’s happening politically! The Gospel of the Kingdom of God, however, is about the joy of salvation through unmerited grace.

The pursuit of happiness has turned the Confessing Church away from joy to happenings gimmicks. My Facebook and email accounts are loaded with ads to purchase the latest Church Growth gimmick. I wondered, “What kind of gimmicks did they have to grow the 1st Century Church, and how much did it cost?”

The record shows that, in a few short months after the Resurrection of Jesus, 3,000 new Church members were added in one day after a “dog and pony show” (Acts 2:12-15) on the portico of the Temple in Jerusalem (v. 41). Time passes; signs and wonders become commonplace; sharing of food and financial resources is organized; leadership becomes devoted to teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. In that context, Peter and John go up to the temple to pray.

Another 2,000 were added that day as the result of Peter pausing to talk with an alms-begging 40-year-old lame guy at the Gate Beautiful, a guy whom Jesus had likely passed a number of times without incident (3:2-4). The first thing that Peter said to him was, “Look up at us!” – “Give us your full attention”. He followed with, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have, I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” He jumped to his feet, leaping and praising God (v.8).

The religious authorities – dispensers of highly-structured happenings – had a public relations problem on their hands. They wanted to know, “What is your gimmick”, or, in more familiar terms, “By what power or what name did you do this?” (4:7).

Yes; a miracle happened, but it played out as not so much about the miracle but as a living witness of the New Way. Peter is telling this man, “Money won’t make your life better; the Church won’t solve your problems; look only to Jesus. Repent; get over your limitations, and get on your feet!”

What about you and me and our worship communities? Are we begging alms to keep the church building going? Is our hope in attracting more people to contribute more money in support of our programs, or is it about living in expectation of what God can do – not just for us, but through us?

The miracle God seeks to display through us is not about numbers, money, or successful marketing gimmicks. It is about looking up, getting on our feet, and becoming walking ambassadors of joy to a world fixated on its happenings.

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