Good morning, brothers and sisters.
I am not going to preach this morning. Instead, I am going to ask all of you to join me in an experiment.
For the next 30 days, I would like all of us together to play, "Let's Pretend."
To begin the experiment, I ask you to put away your Bibles, your notebooks, and your pens or pencils. You won't need to read anything or take any notes for the next few minutes. Just get comfortable, and prepare to listen.
Okay, now close your eyes for a moment, and imagine that it is no longer January of 2014. Travel into the future. Five years...ten years...maybe even 20 years...
Many changes have occurred - in technology, in business, in politics.
One of the biggest changes has been the replacement of several members of the Supreme Court. And today, as I take the pulpit, it is not to preach, but to speak regardings two rulings that have come from the Court in recent months.
Now open your eyes, and let's pretend.
Good morning, sisters and brothers.
The recent months have been a difficult and confusing time for many of us, as we have sought to understand two rulings issued by the Supreme Court of the United States.
I am not going to preach this morning. Instead, I am going to try, as briefly and simply as possible, to help everyone understand what these rulings mean for us, right here, right now.
First, the Supreme Court has ruled that if government shows favor to churches, it helps to establish churches. Therefore, exempting churches from paying real estate taxes violates the establishment clause of the Constitution.
This means that churches must now pay real estate taxes.
More than that, the Court made the ruling retroactive, requiring churches to pay so many years' of back taxes by a certain deadline.
We have missed that deadline, and the government has taken possession of our building. It is now their building.
We can't meet here any more.
In a second decision, the Court has defined - some would say created - a right to non-proselytization, meaning that the non-religious have a right not to be preached to in public. To protect that right, the Court has prohibited public gatherings of a religious nature. They have defined a public gathering as any meeting of more than four people in a public space.
This ruling on gatherings hinges on the distinction between public and private space. The Court has said that religion is a private matter, to be practiced in private. Therefore, while no more than four people may gather in public for religious purposes, people may hold religious meetings of any size in their homes.
I hope you understand now why I am not preaching a sermon this morning. These edicts are already in effect, and if I preached, every man, woman and child here would be taken to jail.
Therefore, you are dismissed. Go, and live your faith.
That is the end of the message, and of the first step in the experiment.
For the next step of the experiment, you ARE dismissed. On your way out, each of you will receive a printed summary of the rules under which we will operate for the next 30 days, namely:
- We cannot meet in this building,
- Any meeting in any public space must be limited to four people, and
- We may hold meetings of any size in our homes.
Now go, and live your faith.
If your church went through this experiment, what results might it produce?
PASTORS: Feel free to steal this - but if you do, please let us know how it goes! Thanks!