Thursday, January 03, 2008

Called to More than a comfortable pew:



This past week I read the posting and the subsequent comment over at the Blog "The Laughing Pastor" and found myself not only agreeing with Blake's reflections on the state of the modern church, but offering an enthusiastic "AMEN!!" to what he wrote ...


In musing about the role of the Church in modernity, he raises some important issues about the complacency and tepid nature of the modern Church. We are no longer a place that engages actively, or at all, in any form of struggle. Instead we've become a place where passion and enthusiasm is acceptable only if the rocking of the boat doesn't get any of us wet.


As I reflected on Blake's words and my own experiences of the last couple of years I had the painful realization that the Church too often takes the path of least resistence when a call to action would be more appropriate ... the status quo must be maintained even when the status quo is toxic and out of touch with the reality in which we live.


Too often we've created a church that tries to maintain a Mayberry like existence in a SOuth Park world ... the Church and its leadership needs to open their eyes, pull their heads out of the sand and have the courage to follow the call of the Spirit ...


This past week, in reading for my Thesis I found a quotation by Nelson Mandela reflecting back on his long arduous journey to freedom for himself and his people that resonated with me. Mandela writes:


The Freedom Struggle is not merely a question of making speeches, holding meetings, passing resolutions, and sending deputations, but of meticulous organization, militant mass action,

and above all the willingness to suffer and sacrifice.
- Nelson Mandela, “Long Walk to Freedom” as quoted in
Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing by Dennis Jacobsen


As I read those words I couldn't help but see a parallel in the modern church. Rather than being engaged in a freedom struggle, in the modern church we've come to believe the we ARE actively engaging a freedom struggle while nothing is really happening. We've come to embody a risk-free life style of faith ... we make our speeches (sermons), we hold our meetings (worship services), we pass resolutions and sign petitions, and we send our letters of protest ... but we do very little that really engages any more than the surface level of an issue.


In the case of the United Church of Canada we will say openly and proudly "We welcome Gays and Lesbians," but when voices are raised questioning IF we are truly living that welcome, or sharing the tumultuous journey gay and lesbian ministry personnel may be having, we stop our ears, cover our eyes and say NOTHING ... In the modern Church complacity, niceties and expedience have come to rule the roost. We tolerate no prophetic challenges to the status quo, and even the institution that has been so active in their social justice commitments choses to side with the "majority" rather than listen to the many voices who have begun fleeing the cowardice that Congregations so eloquently display ...


One could call this exodus "rats from a sinking ship", but I have come to realize the rats are staying onboard the listing vessel, and the healthy folks are shaking their heads, thowing up thier hands and simply (and sadly) walking away. Those who want the church to be more than an over glorified social club where like minded people come together like a contented satiated Little Jack Horner patting himself on the back with the words "oh what a good boy am I", are LEAVING en mass.


The emerging spirit generation that the United Church and others are working diligently at attracting back are NOT INTERESTED in a rebranding of the same tired nonsense that drove them away in the first place. They want to see the Church ACTUALLY live its faith instead of wearing it like some gawdy bobble that is hauled out every week and displayed when it is convenient and expedient. The Church is NOT, nor has it ever been simply a social club - we have Rotary, Lions, Kinsmen, The Elks, and countless other groups that fill that gap. The CHURCH is and remains the BODY of CHRIST present in the world as a testament to the power of God's love as expressed, displayed and embodied in the resurrection.


The Church is about freeing (LIBERATING) ALL of God's people, not just the chose few.


The Church is about afflicting the comfortable and asking each other (and ourselves) CAN I be doing more to live my faith?

The Church is about comforting the afflicted and taking the quaint stories like the Good Samaritan and LIVING out the lessons of life, faith and LOVE that those words offer.


The Church is about taking risks and chances and living the values that we so easily sing about it ... we need to take the lessons we find opening scriptures and apply them to our lives ... it is more than the question - "what would Jesus do?" but that question is a great place to start ...


The church is about living our faith boldly and courageously while we hold ourselves and our neighbours up to standard that is based on the eternal and universal lesson: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you ..."


Like the story of Hillel challenges us - "that which is hurtful to another, you do NOT do - EVER!" we take a proactive stance wherein we live lives that render NO HARM to another ... in short - we live the values of our faith, not just for an hour a day, but EVERY MOMENT of every day ...


It's THAT damned simple .... we need to look in a mirror and ask ourselves if what we've just said, or done is something that is reflective of our faith and something that brings absolutely NO HARM to another person ... and if we find our actions lacking we have a responsibility to make amends ...


The scary thing is that for many people of faith that moment finds them in a place where they are lacking and their conscience condemns them accordingly ... the lesson of Grace though tells us that ALL are lacking and fall short ... and God's grace and forgiveness is extended accordingly.

In the modern social club church that has developed over the last 40 or so years, things like sacrifice, risk, grace and forgiveness are seldom spoken of unless the direction is personal and selfish.


We will speak openly and freely of forgiveness providing WE are are the recipients ...


we will speak openly and freely of Grace providing we are the ones experiencing it ...


we will speak openly and freely about the necessity of risk providing its not OUR personal risk ...


and we will speak openly and freely about sacrifice so long as it doesn't mean WE have to give anything meaningful up ...


The Church is NOT simply the social club we've become ... we're called to much more and it MUST begin with people of faith taking stands and saying - "enough is enough ..."


Who is with us ???

1 comment:

MY OWN WOMAN... said...

Excellent post! You said things much better than I could have said them.