I'm looking forward to Advent so much right now. It's partly because Trinity-tide/Ordinary Time drags on soooo long. And while the tone everywhere drops during this season, the two Anglican churches in town have gone much more low/casual than I am used to or comfortable with. It would be almost enough to make me reconsider my ECUSA issues, except ECUSA has gotten so low church in general, I don't think it would make a difference. And I love Advent (and Lent) -the seasons of waiting and preparation resonate with me so much more, perhaps because of their quiet, austere, contemplative nature.But mainly, Trinity-tide is hard because it's the season most closely connected to the life and growth of the Church.

The Church is a petty group of First Baptisters in a Bible-belt town who drained the life out of my father and my family before throwing us on the dunghill. It is also the pastors and friends in that small town who offered loving silence and prayed peace and grace for us during that season.

The Church is every fight I got into in college with the religious establishment- about the role of women, air pollution, the value of public education, and (my favorite) "scientists are not stupid for believing in evolution." The Church is also many of the faculty at that college who encouraged me to love truth and pursue excellence, even when it's difficult.

The Church is the congregation who sent a friend of mine a bewildering letter, informing him of their intent to "release him to Satan" "in accordance with scriptures x, y, z" (yanked completely out of context). The Church is also the way I've found myself faithfully leaping to answer his phone calls at 3AM for the past year and a half.

And that's the we're asked both to be and to love the Bride of Christ.

per Luther- "The Church is a whore, but she is the Bride of Christ and your mother and you have no leave to abandon her."

Another church father whose name escapes me at the moment- "There is no one who has God as his Father who does not have the Church as his Mother."

Do I still believe that the Church can be redeemed? If I still believe God is omnipotent, I must. But between Binny Hinn's faith healing abuses, the "Prosperity Gospel" philosophy that has swept through the Church in the U.S., and the ridiculous amount of money being made off of a bizarre variety of Christian products (e.g. The Richest Christian Game, the Left Behind books, the "God's Little Princess" gear, the "oh, look, the world is ending and here's how we know" books, and a smorgasbord of cds by bands modeled after better secular bands) it's going to take an awful lot of work.

God is remarkably reluctant to send down fire from heaven to fix things. He more often partners in work with His children. I'm sure I benefit from this as much as anybody, but when it comes to the Church it's exceptionally frustrating. I don't want the work of working for the Redemption of the Church. Frankly, having been battered by the Church more than most, I feel like I should get a free pass here. Ideally, I could just come back in a few millenia after everything's been repaired.

It is impossible to love Christ and despise the Church. We are called to love her passionately, to not be content with mediocrity and to spare no effort in rebuilding her into what she should be:
"in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph 5:27, ESV)."

Right now, just showing up on Sunday morning and writing a tithe check is all I can manage. But it's a good faith effort, and I think God gets that.


Anonymous said…
I don't think it is necessarily impossible to love Christ and despise the church. As you said, we are to find ways to help make the church better (cheap paraphrase, I know).

However, I don't think those changes can really come about unless we dislike the church in some way. A small part of us has to hate what is happening around us. In our pulpits, in our pews, even in ourselves.

If we are not upset about something that should be changed, then we are accepting it. If we don't feel anger at seeing injustice and ignorance in our churches, we are being complacent. We are being useless. We are simply letting it pass while we sit listless in our happy, fake churches.

I realize that the church has many problems. Your list sums up my feelings pretty well (don't get me started on people like Joel Osteen..I will create new and ever more colorful swear words). But I don't think there is anything wrong with being angry about those things. Unless, of course, you simply sit on the anger and let it fester down in the bowels of your soul.

The trick is to harness that anger into a righteous fury that can sweep other people into it. A fury that aims to fix the problems you see around you. Granted, not all the problems will ever be fixed because the church, by it's very nature, will be flawed because people run it. But God never said the work would be easy. He just said to do it.

By the way...what's up? :)

Will Abel
charis said…
St. Cyprian was the church father whose name got lost. My apologies!

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