Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
ELCIC congregations are welcome to republish this material in their church publications. Please acknowledge its original publication by including the credit line:
Canada Lutheran, September 2005
More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, in which they describe the constant unease of those who are shaped by the things that popular culture offers as a way of life:
I can't get no satisfaction, I can't get no satisfaction
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can't get no, I can't get no [Satisfaction]
Peggy Lee won a Grammy for her rendition of Is That All There Is? Her song describes a child watching her house burn down, an adult experiencing unsatisfied love and a senior waiting to die. Each story is spoken in that famous torchy voice, then concludes with the chorus:
Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is, my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is
In Genesis 3, Eve tells the snake that God has given them a paradise in which to live forever as long as they avoid only one tree. The snake replies, "You can have more out of life than that! You can be smarter than you are and you can control the garden. Don't be so satisfied."
Satisfaction! If everyone were satisfied, the advertising industry would collapse. If everyone were satisfied…but most people are not satisfied, so they keep chasing the promises.
For some people, religion is a place to look for satisfaction and some religious organizations are only too eager to make promises to that effect. In contrast, the Buddha's wisdom is evident in his teaching that enlightenment includes ridding oneself of desire. He and Jesus were on the same page: Jesus taught that you find your life by giving it up.
What the gospel promises is peace; a peace that surpasses all satisfaction. A peace that is found in service to others, in the midst of want and deprivation, in the utter devastation of failed dreams and personal inability.
To be a church In Mission for Others requires that we rid ourselves of self-desire and desire only the blessing of others.
The church does not exist as a means for individual members to find satisfaction. The church is a way to point to God active among the world's people. For Christians, Jesus Christ is the closest human experience of God revealed to us, so the church has been shaped out of the stories of Jesus. St. Paul always used Jesus' life as a model for how the mission of the church was to be directed. Because we are baptized into Christ, all of our relationships take on the shape of the cross. Whether we are talking about husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and workers or citizens and states, we are to be directed toward the needs of the other. Self-satisfaction is to be reined in.
The National Church requires the support of every member in pursuing this commitment. Like taxpayers, church members are often heard to ask, "What are we getting for our money?" That's the wrong question. You should be asking, "What will others be getting for our money?" When you can make that switch in thinking about our national ministries, we truly will be a church In Mission for Others!
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, September 2005