“your loyalty is divided between God and the world” (James)

But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
to tell of all your works. – Psalm 73:28

Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. – James 4:8

Wizard-of-Oz-w20 horse of a different colorThe Wiz:

There are many great lines in The Wizard of Oz. One of my favorites is delivered when Dorothy and her friends arrive at the Emerald City; Dorothy asks the Guardian of the Gates about an unusual horse.

  • “There’s only one of him, and he’s it,” the Guardian says; “he’s the Horse of a Different Color you’ve heard tell about.”

Individualization & “Me first”:

The phrase, there’s only one of him, and he’s it came to mind this morning when I was thinking about the extent to which we seem to worship individualism (and ourselves!) here in the United States. Everything, all the time, irrespective of how the idea affects the community, has to be about the individual. But not just any individual, that individual is, “me.”

I’ve noted an alarming move away from “the good of the community,” and toward, “You need to cater to me; you need make me happy; I demand that my needs be met first.”

This is true politically, it happens at schools, businesses, community organizations, recreational activities, restaurants… “It’s about me; make me ‘happy,’ there’s only one of me, and I’m it.”

Years ago, when a major university radically expanded its campus, engineers had the following bright idea. “Let’s hold off on laying sidewalks until the true traffic patterns emerge!” So they set up cameras, used computer programs to keep a record of where the students walked, and determined to link the new buildings with paths that matched individual preferences.

After a full semester, when all the data was in, they were faced with two choices. A) Put in two major arteries, with spurs to the various buildings, totaling a mile and a half of walkways; or B) Build approximately 75 sidewalks, reflecting the most-used routes, adding up to a total of a little more than ten miles of poured concrete.

They chose option A. Later, the sociology department crunched some more numbers, and noted “increased student communication, interaction, and conversation” along the main arteries and at the junctions. In other words, a sense of community develops when individual paths merge along common ground.

a sense of community develops when individual paths merge along common ground.

12826179-mmmainOSTEEN: This idea of rampant individuality, “There’s only one of me, and I’m it…” leads me to think about (and briefly comment on) a video that’s currently circulating on the Internet. It comes from Joel and Victoria Osteen’s mega-feel-good-church in Houston. In the video, Victoria says the following, to loud applause:

“God takes pleasure when we’re happy, that’s what gives him the greatest joy this morning… Just do good for your own self; do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church and worship you’re not doing it for God, really, you’re doing it for yourself. Because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”

The Osteen’s pitch sells so well because it appeals to the “it’s all about me” ethos, the guiding beliefs and ideas that reside at the heart of our culture.

JESUS: But Jesus calls us to be countercultural. Jesus tells us to lay down our lives for other people, to give the shirt off our back, to build community based not on our own preferences but on the ideal of self-giving, mutually encouraging love.


Jesus calls us to put ourselves at the back of the line, to be servants, to look beyond ourselves, and to put God first. Worship is absolutely not about us; worship is about God.

  • There’s only one of God, and he’s it; Jesus is the Good News of a Different Color you’ve heard tell about.



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