The Church

On Sunday our associate pastor John Navarro spoke about growing bitter over the loss of the old ways of being the people of God, aka the church. I was more than a little uncomfortable in my seat as he spoke.

He was talking about people who get caught up in using the Bible alone as a means to approaching God and the Christian life. They throw out the Holy Spirit, and interaction with our Lord, and only soak themselves in the printed word. It’s all about knowing the right thing, believing the right thing, saying the right thing, demanding the right thing. But walking with God through his spirit, centering our lives around and through him, letting him move in and have his being within us, all are discarded as extras, or even as dangers.

I did not get to the place of yearning for the early church ways in that way at all, but I did get there. Am here today. Years ago, I had a Matrix moment in which I was offered two pills. One would open my eyes to a far different reality than I had known, and one would keep me seeing the world the way I currently saw it. I shouldn’t have eaten the eye-opener. But I did. And I saw that the church had come a long way.

John said that the early church was an infant, that she has come a long way in maturing into what she is today. He said that to want for infancy (ie, the early church ways) would cause us to be stubborn and religious, which would birth in us bitterness and resentment.

I don’t see it that way at all. I think the church is more like the church at Laodecia than a mature bride. I think the “American” church in general, with exceptions I’ll quickly admit to, has replaced son/daughter-ship for a business model, and love for law. I think she’s lost the potential for deep community through the routines she’s established, and replaced being the family of God for being a group of like-minded gatherers in the name of a God the people don’t necessarily fellowship with outside of Sunday’s four walls.

However, I am bitter and resentful. I didn’t get here the way he described in his sermon, and “here” isn’t exactly the “here” he was referring to, but I am so bitter, so resentful.

I just erased several paragraphs I wrote in the last half hour detailing all I mourn over, because I know the cost of thinking the way I do. Not just the cost which is the pain that comes from my screwed up way of seeing things, but also the cost that comes from people who are the exception, or else just wish to be, who are angry at me for thinking the church has grown lukewarm and disconnected.

So, what should I do? I am trying to form deeper connections and be the change I want to see. Unfortunately, I have suffered a major blow this summer. I am working through it, and what it has revealed to me about myself, in therapy. (My previous, and very hip, pastor used to praise therapy so often, like a cheerleader for the cause, I can’t help but feel a little cool admitting I’m getting help.) I cannot be the change I wish to be, except for in small bursts here and there, which is exactly what I complain the church is doing.

For heaven’s sake, perhaps the bride of Christ is just messed up like I am, and I just need to lighten up and give her the same grace I need for myself. Get over what’s missing because even I can’t bring it to the table.

I’ve been spending more time in silence and solitude with God, with and without the printed word, with and without song, with and without prayer, with and without listening for who-knows-what he might say to me, if anything at all. I have been loving my family better. I have been a better school teacher. I have been a better home-maker. And thank God, I have been a better wife, perhaps the hardest task I put myself to, even though my husband’s love apparently knows no bounds.

When people say, “we are the church,” they aren’t kidding. Really, like it or lump it….

I am the church.

Much Like the Life Jesus Led

I’m reading through Brennan Manning’s book, Reflections for Ragamuffins. It has an entry for every day of the year. Today’s entry says that Jesus is not like the great thinkers of his day, “speaking with detachment about the Supreme Being.”

He’s the God with spit on his face.

And he tells us not to weep for him, but to join him. He tells us that the life he led is the Christian life he has planned for us to live.

Manning goes on to say that the scandalous cross of Christ comes into our lives through “mental anguish, physical suffering, and wounds of the spirit that will not close,” within which we pray that God will help us stand against the realms of the flesh, the devil and the world.

That got me to thinking about the life Jesus lived, and about the word “world.”

I’m thinking of doing a series of posts about the life that Jesus lived, because I’m certain I’ve not fully embraced that life for myself nearly enough. And as Manning says in this entry, “It is hard to be a Christian, but it is too dull to be anything else.”

If I do create this series of posts, I also want to talk about Jesus being hated by the world, and telling us his followers would be, too. Who was Jesus hated by? The “world” is something I’ve often been told is the embodiment of the values and means of secular systems–greed, lust, pride, selfish ambition and more. To be hated by the world would be to be hated by people who are all about those things, right? I’ve always heard that the world’s people are those who aren’t followers of God. But the people who hated and scorned Jesus, ultimately had him sentenced to death, and harassed his followers just as he said they would, were the religious leaders of the day. Paul himself admitted that when he was part of the faction that was trying to squelch Jesus and his Way, he thought he was on Team God.

I’m not certain I’m bold enough to start writing again. This blog has been quiet for years now. I’ve written many posts in the past three years, only to delete them rather than publish them. Maybe this is enough for now. Maybe it’s not, and I’ll do the series. For today, it’s enough.

If there’s anybody out there, thanks for reading. What do you think about these things? (Not whether or not not I write more, but about the things I’ve written here today.)