A MINISTER’S MUSINGS……………………………………………………ON THE CHURCH
A long time ago, in a land far, far away, a group of ordinary people who fished for a living or were tent-makers or who herded flocks of sheep met a man named Jesus. He lived in a backwater province called Nazareth and worked with his Dad making furniture. It was a pretty ordinary life, hemmed in by poverty and subsistence living. But, somehow, this man galvanized the people around him and filled them with a deep sense of purpose. He told them that their lives mattered and that they could make a difference in the world, if they had courage and faith enough to try.
He died a cruel death, charged with sedition, and was mocked and jeered at as he died. But his end was the beginning – of something new and transformative – a movement of people energized by faith to change the world. Ultimately, his death and the power of his words of love, galvanized even more groups of people and the Christian church was born.
It is a huge enterprise, this thing called “the church.” It has provided a gathering place for millions of people to express their faith and to praise God. Its avowed intention, to change the world, has worked – sometimes. And there are times that the church has failed spectacularly in its work, blinded by creeds and dogmas. For example, it took the church a mere 300 years to officially apologize to Galileo’s descendants for what they had done to him during his lifetime. Galileo was the man who discovered, by mathematics and a study of the stars, that the earth revolved around the sun. The church believed, based on its reading of the Book of Genesis, that the sun revolved around the earth. Galileo literally (!) turned the world upside down and the church couldn’t handle it.
It’s the same today. The church can’t handle many things in our modern world – abortion, same-gender marriage, the use of bathrooms by transgendered people, safe injection sites. We often drown ourselves in dogmas and creeds that make people feel unloved by God. We are a flawed, stumbling community of believers. But it is my contention that for all that we get “wrong,” there is lots that we get “right.” Like loving our neighbour, welcoming the broken hearted, offering forgiveness and practising restorative justice.
We can never claim to be the perfect institution because we are filled with human beings. That gets us in trouble every time. But we can claim that we are seeking to live as Jesus instructed his early followers – to seek justice, and love kindness and to walk humbly with our God. If you have been hurt by the church, those words may ring hollow, however, they have the ring of true coin because we never give up trying to be the community of believers that God has called us to be.