(1st Corinthians 15:3-5)
This is my only passion,
The very reason why I live...
To make You known
And to make You seen
To be Your hands
And to be Your feet
Oh, I want to be
A revelation of love
Oh, I...I want to make
The invisible God
(From the song "Visible," by 4Him)
I had two-and-a-half days of pretty deep conversations with sister Sue and her husband Jeff. Maybe it was the visit to the cemetery that triggered the discussions. After all, Jeff's father is buried there; his mother, he and Sue all have plots there. But my parents donated their body to science, and the remains were cremated. There is no plot, no "place to visit" in our family. (My parents really taught us that there is no value in honoring the flesh, once the spirit has fled.) At any rate, that visit to the cemetery seemed to spur lots of serious talk, which was kind of a first in a long while.
Jeff has been a life long Missouri Synod Lutheran; their family was one of the founding families of their church. Sue, coming from my own tradition of lapsed Catholicism, goes to church when Jeff goes (which is not often). I found my way back to church and faith while getting sober; Sue went back to church with her husband, but I'm not sure she ever found faith again.
As we talked about issues of life, death, and faith, all they could see of church was a restrictive list of shall-nots, and not the living presence of Christ in the world.
They both questioned the validity of the church as a whole, because of lots of things related to their own church: its absolute insistence on belief in the "real presence of Christ" to receive communion, the refusal to ordain women (or to even respect women who are ordained in other denominations), the insistence that music not performed on a pipe organ is not holy music...the list went on and on.
I wanted to weep. Repeatedly.
Insistence on dogma. Raising tradition to the status of commandment. Clinging to this proof-text or that key verse of Scripture as a way of drawing people in or keeping them out. A select group of men deciding whether certain people are (or are not) going to Hell. Churches (like the one in question) who post signs on the wall saying, "Free Coffee. Eternal life. Yes, membership has its privileges."
Pointing to institutions and the traditions, instead of to the Savior.
Early on Memorial Day morning, I actually awoke while it was still dark from a dream that I'd gone to this church, grabbed the pastor by the lapels, and (misquoting a famous politician) declared, "It's the GOSPEL, stupid!" I found myself going back to 1st Corinthians 15 (my own personal credo) time and time again.
And I wished that churches who claim the name of Christ could put away all the petty differences, all the exclusionary and persecutory crap, and do the same. To preach Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection. To preach hope, rather than despair. To preach inclusion, rather than exclusion.
What a wonderful world that would be...
Lord God, help each of us as followers of Christ be sure of Who and what we are worshiping. Help us focus on the "first imporantance" things: life, death, and resurrection of Christ. In everything we do this day, let us ensure that we are sharing Your love and helping to make you Visible to a world that needs to see You so very badly. Amen...