Today is Black Friday, the day on which (as a number of memes accurately point out) Americans who were just yesterday thankful for all that they had rush out to greedily snatch up all that they can at incredible prices.
In all of the promotion and excitement and planning and scheming, most Americans have forgotten why this day is what it is. Most American don't know why it is called Black Friday. It doesn't even occur to them that this day was created not for them, but for the retailers - so-called Black because today is the day when the retailers balance their books and finally turn a profit for the year.
But don't think for a moment that this is a post about American economics. Far from it.
This is a post about the human heart.
Because what we've done with Black Friday is what we've done with just about everything else, including matters of faith and the heart and God and church and all that. The longer it's gone on, the longer we've participated in these kinds of things, the longer we've made them part of our routine, the more we have come to believe that they are all about us.
When we go to church, let's just be honest, most of us are thinking about ourselves. We're thinking about what we get out of it. We're thinking about all that it means for us to be there.
We're thinking about being part of a social club that gives us a certain measure of standing in our communities or looks good on our resumes or teaches us the insider lingo of some kind of elite group. We're thinking about the programs that are available to us and our children, just by being a part of it, and we celebrate things like preschool, Sunday school, and youth group that help us to raise our kids. We think about the worship that just sounds so good, the preaching that makes us feel good about ourselves, and the connections we make with other human beings that give us a resource to call upon when we need one.
When we think about God, we think about everything that we get out of Him. We think about how our sins (you know, those very few sins that we actually have, in comparison with so many others who sin more than we do and in full acknowledgement that God probably doesn't even care any more about most of our sins) and how they are forgiven. We think about how we get the chance to say some beautiful things because God taught them to us. We think about how we get this awesome opportunity to go to Heaven just because we go to church. And so on and so on and so on...
And some of this is good, I guess, or whatever. But it reveals something about the nature of our hearts as human beings, says something fundamental about who we are.
Because just as we have lost sight of how Black Friday was created for the retailers, so, too, have we forgotten that faith was made for God.
We've forgotten how much God loves our presence in His assembly, how He rejoices over us when we come to Him. We've forgotten how much God loves breaking bread with us in Communion, how He is the One who instituted this sacrament in the first place. We've forgotten that when we worship, God loves the sounds of our voices even more than we do - even the voices that sing off-key. We have forgotten how God celebrates when His Word is proclaimed.
We have gone to church to declare how much we love God, but we have forgotten somewhere just how much He loves us. We don't even give it a second thought.
Today, as happens every year on this day, many Americans will rush out and scoop up bargains that they think were made just for them, forgetting that today is a day for retailers who have set their eyes on the black.
And then, on Sunday, as happens every Sunday, many Americans will straggle into church services that they think were made just for them, forgetting that Sunday (and all other days) is a day for God who poured Himself out in the red.