Back to the Future
To be or not to be a community is not an option for the church. By nature the church is a community and experiences communion. The question before the people of God is: what kind of community will we be?
The New Testament invites us to formulate a theology and practice of communion based on the nature of the Body of Christ. John Driver, Community and Commitment, Herald Press
Sometimes we have to move backward before we can move forward. Sometimes things that seemed good have to die in order for new things to be born. Sometimes we have to live with some uncertainty and chaos before a new order can take shape.
We desperately need to recover a simple and biblical Hebraic (rather than Greek) Christianity. We need to call a prodigal church back to New Testament values and principles. We need to remember the poor. And we desperately need to rediscover community.
My journey and the journey of my friends is not yet finished. We haven’t arrived. We don’t really even have an awful lot to show for the wear and tear to date. We just found out that the car is rusty, the wheels square, and the frame bent. We feel like beginners on the road, where not long ago we thought we had come a long way.
The most difficult challenge of this new journey has been the discovery that it was relatively easy to take ourselves out of the church. It is more difficult to get the church out of us (church in the sense of religion, cultural rules and self-centered ways). In this sense Henri Nouwen was right when he said that, “He who walks the mystical way is called to unmask the illusory quality of human society. No mystic can prevent himself from becoming a social critic, since in self-reflection he will discover the roots of a sick society.” The Way of the Heart.
The joy is that we have a sense of anticipation and hope; hope for ourselves and even for a prodigal church. And in the process of leaving the church, we have not only found the church, but found ourselves. Richard Rohr writes,
“Many .. give up their boundaries before they have them, always seeking their identity in another group, experience, possession or person. “She will make me happy,” or “They will take away my loneliness.” The group may become the substitute for doing the hard work of growing up. It is much easier to belong to a group than it is to know that you belong to God.” Everything Belongs Crossroad Books, p.22.
We are determined not to play church games anymore. We are learning to care for one another, and to take initiative. It takes a long time to get passivity out of our systems.
There are times when I miss what the system gave me: a sense of belonging, a sense of power. I’m having to find a new voice. The desire for recognition dies hard. It is much more difficult to simply serve the people the Lord brings us day by day. The rewards are slower to come, the cost is higher; but if this is all there is to the Cross, what mercy!
I recall years ago hearing someone say that “hospitality is not part of the gospel – it IS the gospel.” We’re learning the deep truth of these words. Jesus invited us into His family. “Church” is something dynamic and mysterious that occurs within us and between us.. “where two or three are gathered,” and not merely in a given time slot on Sunday mornings.
We can no longer count on being fed by a 40 minute sermon each Sunday. We can’t count on a great worship experience every week. Until recently we couldn’t count on a regular gathering. We are learning to anchor our lives in our own devotional places, and learning again how much we need the body. We are learning to take initiative when we need prayer or encouragement, and we’re learning to be pro-active in offering care to others.
My Lord came from heaven to serve. He stepped farther down than I can ever reach. I want to know Him more.
If you are on a journey downward may the Lord walk closely to you. Find some friends on the same path; we aren’t meant to walk this road alone.
Be hospitable. Remember the poor. God go with you.