God for Sale

imagesRecently I was browsing my Facebook feed, when I saw a post that intrigued me. It said, “Join other pilgrims for a soul journey into advent… you’ll be immersed into the season in a more whole and holy way.” I had previously read one or two interesting articles on the site in question, and my soul was hungry for something more, so I clicked through to be greeted by the following title:

“when the heart waits: a soul journey into advent, christmas + epiphany”

I continued to read paragraph after paragraph about waiting, quietness, seeking, longing for God, endings and beginnings, and hints of hope that the wait is worth it. So far, so good.

There’s the bait, now for the hook.  After reading a delightful description of a spiritual journey, I come upon the final section entitled “Levels of Participation.” Evidently there are “levels” at which one can participate in one’s “soul journey”:  Levels 1, 2 and 3. If you only want level 1 of spirituality, “those who want in,” then it can be had for the bargain price of $98. For those “longing for real encounter and transformation,” level 2 is only a bit more at $125.  But if you want the full experience, go for level 3, for those who “just want more.” At this final and highest level you’ll be able to “hear the voices of those who understand what it is to walk in the dark, bearing the light.”  And that, all for the low, low price of $165.

All that is a bit tongue in cheek, and I do not know the people behind the site. I am willing to believe they are well-meaning. And it’s not that I would mind spending $98-165 for a “soul journey” either. It’s just I cannot imagine Jesus doing that. I did search the site, and only one place, deeply buried in the FAQs, mentions that “other arrangements can be discussed” for those going through financial hardship. This is not for the advent “soul journey” but for those who are seeking to have a “spiritual director” at $75/hour, nothing is mentioned for the “soul journey.”

But back to Jesus, can one imagine the person who said “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” saying “oh, and that will be $98 please?” Can one imagine the one who was “gentle and humble of heart,” but became so angry at the money changers in the temple that he turned over their tables and drove them out with a whip (!), can one imagine such a man assigning levels of participation with him, with each level being a little more expensive?  Rationalize however you want, it’s not the spirit of Jesus Christ. I say this without standing in judgement of the person behind the site.  As I said, I do not know them, they may be a lovely person. They may love God. They may have a lovely spiritual journey, and they may even have wonderful things to share. And those who decide to spend $98-165 may end up with a wonderful spiritual journey. I wish them well.

But if such an pitch leaves you disheartened because you don’t have $98 to spend on a soul journey, and you are too weary to “discuss other arrangements” due to your financial “hardship;” if you are tired of talking about your financial hardship because every one thinks your financial hardship is their business; if you are wondering if $98 will really take you on a “soul journey” and are not entirely sure that it may not end in disappointment; if all these things describe the weariness that your soul feels as you approach this advent season, then I have a deal for you:

“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.”

Note: All this has inspired me to write about advent.  I cannot promise that it will exactly run on time, but I can say that it will  be “good news for the poor.”

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