by Fletcher Lowe
“Bring God into the Marketplace” read the headline of an article in the February 11, 2016 Arlington (VA) Catholic Herald. Question: Do we really need to bring God into the marketplace? Isn’t God already there? Isn’t that what the Incarnation is all about – God becoming flesh and dwelling among us: Emmanuel – God with us?
Byron Rushing, an Episcopalian in the Massachusetts Legislature and VP of the Episcopal House of Deputies put it this way: “Jesus is in the Legislature where I am called to serve. If he were not there, I should not be there either.” Rather, isn’t the Christian’s question “how do we live into God’s real presence in the marketplace?” And that, in spite of its headline, is where the article moved with a telling confession: Most people are spending more time in the marketplace every year, but it’s the place where we are least formed.
Why is that? After all, it is in the marketplace where Christians spend most of their God-given time and talent – in God’s presence! Why hasn’t the Church taken that seriously enough to help parishioners be formed, so they can claim their identity as Christ’s ambassadors?
In visiting as I do with parishioners in their place of work, after asking them to share what they do, I turn the conversation to “What is the faith connection with what you do here?” For the vast majority, like 85 percent, that is the first time that that question has been raised for them. This calls for a systemic change in the way the average congregation does business. Rather than the parishioner helping the priest do his/her job better, the priest needs to empower and affirm and equip and form the parishioner for his/her daily life and work.
In the congregations that do that work, the Dismissal at the end of worship becomes our marching orders – when we are sent into our specific world of job and family and community rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.