Tabloid Testaments?
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

In a world where truth has gone tabloid, it is more important than ever for the Christian community to live out an identity of integrity.  Today we are going to approach a topic that I have been wanting to preach about for several months.  The danger and damage that Gossip causes in a church.  We all do it or find ourselves unwilling party to it by those who force it on us. 

Has anyone ever read the Weekly World News? If you truly want to stay on top of what's happening on the religious forefront, this is the publication for you. Back in June of 1992, the WWN finally put an end to all the creationist vs. evolutionist hullabaloo by reporting "Adam and Eve's Skeletons Found in Colorado!"

Thanks to the WWN, people no longer need to agonize for a lifetime over the state of their souls. For the price of one 85-cent issue, this paper provides a "Quick Home Test That Tells If You're Going to Heaven or Hell!"  Still on the fence about whether the newfound popularity of angels should be proudly claimed by the church or left to the New Age faddists? Consider checking out the issue that reveals "Baby Born With Angel's Wings" (of course, there were photographs).

By now you've probably guessed that the Weekly World News is one of those checkout counter tabloid newspapers. But did you know that what is even more amazing than the incredible headlines is the fact that the WWN has a weekly circulation of between 750,000 and one million readers?  It is satire, written comedy, yet many, many people read it and actually believe what is written.  No different than those who gossip. 

Why is it that the tabloid phenomenon is sweeping through our culture? Instead of dying like the old dinosaurs as predicted, tabloid newspapers and their tabloid reporting style are now spreading across all our media forms.  At first, the tabloid TV track, Hard Copy, A Current Affair, etc., skirted around the prime-time hours. All of us can confess that we find the tabloid spirit within ourselves. Aren't we more prone to rag on a colleague than brag about him/her?

In a real sense, crucifixion is not just a historical event, it is something we do to each other daily. We crucify one another when we "cut each other down to size," when we "drag people down into the mud." Some of the most self-righteous members of a church find some sort of enjoyment in crucifying other members.  Gossip is “tabloidism” at it’s worse.  

In the parable of the prodigal son the reality is the older brother is the gossipmonger. As soon as his father comes out to him, the older brother can't wait to "tell" on his younger sibling. Elements of the prodigal's life that neither Luke nor the father are interested in exploring attract the older brother like fresh meat. The older brother delights in exposing the worst part of his brother's life. "How can you give him a big party?" he asks his father. "You know of course that he spent all the money you worked so hard to give him on nothing but prostitutes!"

What we can assume is that when elder son scolded his father, it hurt the father deeply. In fact, the stories, the mud-slinging, the exaggerations by the older brother of the behavior of the younger son must have cut so deeply the older brother must have been deemed as much a lost sinner as the younger brother.

The younger son was lost because he broke the rules of honesty, integrity, and honor for family and for God. He went off to a wicked, distant place and wasted his resources and his life. The older brother was the so-called “good person” in the story. He was like the scribes and Pharisees who had been grumbling about Jesus spending time with sinners. He kept all the rules. He believed all the right things. He did all the right things. His only error was failing to grasp the purpose of believing and doing all the things.

A righteous and holy life is not a matter of keeping or not keeping the rules and regulations. A blessed life comes by maintaining open and loving relationships with God, community, family, and neighbor. Faithful living is not a matter of rule keeping. It is a matter of healthy, loving, accepting, relationship building with God and all God’s children.

In the parable, the younger brother finally figured it out. The concern for each of us in this Lenten season of self-examination is to ask which of the brothers are we most like: the one who just complained about the way others fell short or the one who came to understand the truth that faithful living comes in loving relationships?

In addition to diminishing numbers of Pastor/Clergy/Minister there is also a major problem of low clergy moral.  One of the "situational causes" of low clergy moral named was this:  "Who can you trust any more?" is the cry of those in ministry who look to other clergy for support and comfort in times of low morale. Fear, suspicion and mistrust keep colleagues from truly sharing their hurts and hopes in ministry.

The breech of confidentiality among Pastors has led to some very disturbing trends in the faith community.  The ecclesiastical grapevine is one of the wonders of the modern world. Even here at Trinity, there was a time when I could speak in confidence to members of the Board or Elders or other officers, but within the past year this confidence was shattered in the name of friendship.  Every community, organization, club, house of worship has its information specialists, its news carriers, those who keep the communication flowing and fluid.  Simply stated are the self-appointed gossiper And we in the church have information specialists to put the corporate world to shame. Sometimes the only thing more developed than our sense of humor is our sense of rumor or better known as gossip.  But the worldly grapevine is strangling us. What it deserves is not our ears, but our shears.

One of the due-process reforms was the "Miranda Rule." The reading of "Miranda rights" is required for every person arrested; suspects are informed of their "right to remain silent [or have a lawyer present], for what you say can and will be used against you."

How many Christians are living a "mirandized" ministry whatever we say to one another can and sometimes will be used against us?  I have said this in Bible Study and at different meetings, but what I have preached in the past based on Biblical truths, have been distorted in our tabloid society and unfortunately now are considered political, not Biblical.  No matter how much disagree with Scripture does not give you or anyone the right to try to change the Word of God to fit your agenda, rather we need to change and conform to it. 

A person’s life can be ruined by a single slur, a lone slander, an idle gossip. Not only should we not participate in Gossip or slander, be careful what you write in Emails and on the internet, people can misinterpret what you wrote or others can read what you wrote at times and use it against you.  Those in ministry leadership should be even more careful because there is no exception to the rule. There is enough hearsay, whimsy, enough gabble of gossip going on behind our backs without our brothers and sisters in the church adding more to the pile. There is a saying that goes like this "Should a man not lay his hand upon his mouth before he/she criticizes his/her brother or sister?"

Another way that you should examine what you are about to say is this test:

1) Is it true?               2) Is it kind?              3) Is it necessary?

Would the older son's gossipy words about his brother's decadent lifestyle pass through those gateways?

  1. Were they true? Perhaps. But we are given no clue as to why this older son, who obediently stayed at

home and worked the land, should know about his brother's actions while he was off in another land.

2. Were they kind? Obviously not. The truth about where his brother's squandered inheritance went was trotted out to hurt both the brother and the father, to "punish" them for daring to celebrate the prodigal's return.

3. Were they necessary? Not at all. The younger son had returned, but he would never regain the inheritance he had lost. The older son's position was firmly established; his brother's return posed no threat.

Next time you are tempted to add a sizzling piece of juicy gossip to the fire, try subjecting your motives to these same three gates.

Let us declare a moratorium on gossip or criticism about other within our congregations. Try not to speak ill of any brother or sister, living or dead. Don't squander your time or mind running down people you don't like or who rub you the wrong way. Don't turn this church into a breeding ground for tabloid testaments.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  If someone calls you or begins to gossip before you, hang up or walk away.  Don’t become party to this poison that ruins lives and only leads to hurt and heartache. 

By the way, did you know that Moses came from outer space, and that Michael Landon has come back to earth as an angel, and that UFOs landed in Israel 2500 years ago?