Don't waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It's a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ. - Ephesians 5:11-16 The Message
Our real estate agent recently invited my wife and me to a luncheon. We asked about the purpose of the luncheon and she vaguely said something about "media day." We assumed this meant that her real estate agency was hosting a free luncheon for members of the media and potential clients. So that Tuesday we traveled downtown to meet in a restaurant that served bar food. We were directed to a small room where several people were sitting silently, eyeing us suspiciously. We introduced ourselves to a couple of folks across the table and were greeted with limp-wristed handshakes and a look of confusion. I couldn't shake the feeling that wherever we were, whatever we were doing, it was forced and ill-conceived. After we received our food a young man stepped up to the end of the table, seemingly emerging out of the shadows of nowhere and began to speak of a wonderful "opportunity."
It was a multi-level marketing pyramid scheme. Then I knew why everyone looked so uncomfortable—they had been as clueless as we were!
The word "sham" immediately entered my mind. A "sham," of course, is something that is not what it is purported to be. Interestingly, a "sham" is also the name we give to a decorative covering for a pillow on a bed. A sham is aesthetically pleasing, but it only covers up what we know is hidden inside.
One of my favorite words these days is "authenticity." I yearn for a day when the first word that enters the minds of my neighbors and yours when they pass by our aesthetically pleasing church buildings is "authentic" rather than "sham."
Holy and Transparent God, you have invited us to lunch at your banquet and we know why we are here: to live in authentic communities of compassion and care. No pyramid schemes are needed here for motivation. Amen.
Jimmy R. Watson is the Pastor of St. Andrew United Church of Christ, Louisville, Kentucky.