Let me give you a definition in brief. Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels (DBY, 416)
There is a scene in the temple endowment that haunts me.
Peter, James, and John appear to Adam and Eve on errand of the Gods and, in an effort to identify themselves as a true messengers, Peter asks Adam if he has any tokens or signs.
Before Peter can respond, Lucifer interrupts – “Have you any money?…You can buy anything in this world for money.”
Peter then turns to Adam and asks, “Do you sell your tokens or signs for money? You have them I presume.”
Even as a 20 year old girl, going through the temple ceremony for the first time, I knew this had nothing to do with keywords, handshakes, and gestures. Nothing at all in fact, which is a shame really, because I have a great memory and I had the entire endowment memorized after a single weekend of temple sessions. If all God wanted was the regurgitation of passwords and signs, I was headed straight to the uppermost realms of a celestial heaven.
I knew the tokens I needed to enter the presence of God could not be so easily and arbitrarily won. What I didn’t realize was how easily I could give them away for a little bit of recompense.
Opportunities to acquire the tokens of discipleship are ever present in our lives. They arise from experiences that challenge, inconvenience, disquiet, and sometimes decimate our worldviews and upend our lives. They appear in the moments when we choose to walk The Way of Christ.
When we walk a mile more than is requisite and carry burdens not our own
When we frankly forgive someone who has wronged us even if they are unrepentant
When we see a brother in the face of an enemy and we refuse to withhold love
When we show compassion on one who has no power to return the favor
When we refuse to pass judgment despite appearances or even evidence of guilt
When we absorb the undeserved consequences of another’s actions and refuse to retaliate
When we lay down our swords and pick up plowshares to build a better world
When we turn the other cheek and refuse to strike back
When our hands are used to heal and help even the ungrateful nine
When we see the widow’s faith and not just her mite
When we allow our quest for justice to be appeased by mercy
When we tenderly touch those who are rejected and bind up their wounds
When the central plea of every prayer becomes “Father, forgive them” and the driving force behind every act is “that [we] may be one”
Every time we act as Christ did, the tokens appear. Sometimes they are visible in the subtle smile and faraway look of one who feels an overwhelming sense of peace and joy. Other times, they tear through our flesh like nine inch nails or a cat of nine tails and leave gaping scars. Every time, they change us into creatures who resemble the Risen Lord.
Over the past few years, events and conversations have brought the cost of these tokens into sharp relief. I see them bought and sold, bartered for, and haggled over almost daily.
I’ve see people selling their good works on social media posts for the praise of other pew dwellers.
I’ve watched as fiery salesmen have stirred some to shift from absorbing strikes on the cheek to striking first.
I’ve observed charity sold for the cheap price of identity politics, as whole classes of people are described with ugly epithets, treated as enemies and untouchables, their very real wounds dismissed and ignored.
I’ve heard people trading in their plowshares for concealed carry cards and the superficial sense of control in a world that frightens them.
I’ve practically felt the currency change hands as some believers sit in service Sunday morning after cheering on warmongers Saturday night.
And I can’t lie. I’ve done my share of selling tokens in my life.
I’ve publicized a few of my good works, my own exuberance about the experience pushing my humility into the back seat. I’ve been seduced by carnie-like callers peddling preemptive strikes and political affiliation. I’ve allocated resources to retaliation and considered trading in my plowshare in moments when fear overwhelms faith. I’ve traded my token of Christlike compassion and empathy for the opportunity to judge others. And I’ve withheld love and kindness on occasion because I could not forgive or see others as my brothers and sisters.
I’ve sold my tokens for the money of this world. And I’m betting, that if you make a fearless moral inventory, you have too.
As someone trying to draw closer to Christ, not only in word but in deed, I am looking, dismayed, around the marketplace and feeling the emptiness of some pockets that once felt very full.
In 2017, I’m turning over the tables and walking out. I’m not angry. My Christianity is simply not for sale.
It won’t be exchanged for anything because I’m saving my tokens.
Apparently, there are some angels I need to pass by.