Is it time to clean up the Church?
THoughts to help us depend on Jesus.
When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table* with the Twelve. 21 While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”
22 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?”
23 He replied, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. 24 For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!” Matthew 26:20-24 NLT
Jerome Schurff and the philosophers are offended by the form of the church, which is subject to scandals and sects, because they think of the church as pure, holy, unspotted, and the dove of God. It’s true that the church has this appearance in God’s sight, but in the eyes of the world the church is like its bridegroom Christ: hacked to pieces, marked with scratches, despised, crucified, mocked [Isa. 53:2, 3].
Perhaps it was John’s preconceived ideas about asceticism that God wanted to demolish in order to free him in the last days of his life to accept God’s coming in any way at all, including through the eating and drinking and compassion of the actual Messiah.
I need to confess:
Like most pastors and priests who wrk with a denomination or brotherhood, I get a little frustrated by where I see men leading the Church. The agendas, the hatred spewed out against those whose agendas don’t match, the money and mechamisms put in place in denominations and congregations, rather that seeking consensus among the people of God drives me deep into depression. Part of me just wants to hide out with my own people, and forget the church at large. THe other part of me wants to run in, get involved, take control and clean up the mess.
And make no mistake – the church at large, and most denominations are incredibly messed up right now.
Part of the problem is that we are asking who is to blame, and if we can’t find anyone to blame, we start looking at our lives. As we do, we ask the same thing the apostles did, “Am I the one?” Is it my actions, my work, my weakness that is breaking down the church, dividing it? Am I the one who betrays Jesus?
I think we need to ask that question, and if there are things we are doing, repent.
As I read Luther’s words the other morning, it hit home hard, my vision of the church and the reality – that while I am most often seeing the side that Schurff sees, the church that is brutally hacked to pieces, marked with self inflicted pain (like the Gadarene man posessed by demons) and needing to be crucified.
I forget that God sees us differently, as being pure, holy, unspotted and the bearers of peace. And even when I meditate on the that idea, my own view sees something else, and I am challenged to set that aside and trust God in what He sees. I want to take the entire church into the wildernness, so that maybe forty years of wandering around with nothing but God’s providence to sustain them, they might get the point.
In doing so, I am in the same place as John the Baptist, thinking that asceticism, that casting aside everything, is the only way to seek the peace of God that comes when nothing is left.
Keating makes a point about this, that shocks me. To think like John is to dismiss God working in other ways. John isolated and preached hard against the evils of his day. That’s why John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask if Jesus was the one… it was so radically different than how he imagined the Messiah’s coming. But Goid knows what the people of God – those already present and those to come need….
He is God, we aren’t… and His bride is His responsibility…and all we are called to point people to Him, and help remove the things that cause theme to stumble….
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 262.
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 347.