Monday, October 3, 2011

rambling post about a non-functional microwave

A church kitchen that I'm familiar with has, among other things, a microwave oven.  Obviously this, in itself, is unremarkable.  However, the reason I'm remarking is because, apparently, this particular microwave oven isn't working.  I make this assumption because it has a sign on the door which says something like, "Do Not Use: Microwave Smokes when in Use"

Now, church buildings have, by and large, been non-smoking for many years, so that's not the unusual part.  What grabs my attention is the fact that the microwave oven has been sitting there, on the kitchen counter, with the same sign on its door, for probably a couple weeks. 

The closest I really ever got to working in the corporate was as a temporary factory worker a long time ago; so I can only imagine that, in the corporate world, a broken microwave oven would probably be gone pretty quickly. 

I do, however, work in the church; and in the church, it seems to me that it's extremely difficult to ever get rid of anything.  Every congregation I've ever been a part of has this same issue.  If I were to take a walk around most church buildings, I imagine I'd find storage rooms and closets and file cabinets and bookshelves filled with items that haven't been used for years and that really aren't worth anything to anyone. 

Why is it that we, the church, are so reluctant to get rid of anything? 

Is it because we find value in what's old?  Maybe ~ we certainly do turn regularly to the old writings of scripture, and we often participate in rites that have been in use for many decades, if not centuries. 

Is it because we shy away from conflict?  Perhaps we're concerned that if one person gets rid of something, they'll discover later that the thing they got rid of was highly valued by someone else in the congregation. 

I think, though, that there's more going on.  It may not have always been true (and I don't know if, 150 years ago, most church buildings were as cluttered as they are now), but I think members of congregations are reluctant to throw stuff out because we don't like to take responsibility ~ which again, like most things, boils down to money.  

Here's the thing.  Our society has become so very consumer-oriented, that I think we don't even know how to talk about anything other than a contractual exchange.  What I mean is that, when I go to the movie, a semi-contractual exchange takes place. I pay my money, and the theater provides me with entertainment.  When I go to a restaurant, I exchange money for food. 

In church, though, we enter into a covenental relationship with one another.  We agree to participate in a faith life together, within a community.  There may be money involved, but money given should be as a response to the action of the divine ~ G-d's grace ~ rather than as a payment for whatever a person feels they've received. 

The trouble is that there are so few covenental relationships extant in our society.  We don't know how to talk, or think, about these other than as contractual ~ I pay money to the church, and the church provides me a religious service. 

I believe that we are so steeped in contractual capitalism that we don't know how to think differently about the covenental relationship necessary in a faith community.  And this, at least to some degree, is why there's still a non-functional microwave in the kitchen ~ because many people, deep within the depths of their being (and without realizing it) think that since they've paid, someone else should do the work of deciding and throwing away. 

I'm probably wrong, but that's what I think today.


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