After somewhat of an optimistic look at congregations, I feel a footnote of sorts should be added. While I still maintain the Church in Christ cannot die I must also say with equal certainty–the Church must die.
After discussing my last post with the Hubs, he posed one question that I completely overlooked at the time. “Doesn’t Christ call us to die?”
By the very nature of the Incarnation the Messiah chose a way toward death. In taking on flesh, breathing air, and walking on this earth he was made subject to death (as we are). Although, numerous times, Jesus raised the dead and restored life, he did not keep them from dying again and again. And even when he healed people he put himself in awkward positions. He touched a bleeding woman, ate from unclean hands, he washed feet (a servant’s job), and he was often found in the company of outcasts. These actions don’t seem to promote a long and prosperous life. Everything is backwards. Everything is upside down.
The Messiah, the one who is to save us, also washes our feet. Risks being ceremonially unclean to touch us. Forfeits social status to eat with us. Sets aside God-hood and Divinity itself to love us more completely.
Jesus does not send us off and tell us what to take with, or how to “bring Jesus” to other people. When he called the disciples Jesus tells them what to leave behind. He invites them to come and see what is already happening in the Kingdom.
But we don’t always know how to die. our human nature makes us fear death–we see it as a weakness or sorts, and ending, and it’s unknown and not understood. Nevertheless if we are to be born into a new idea we must die to an old one:
If we are going to believe fair trade products offer better wages and fair treatment for producers and farmers, than we must die to and give up the ideals of mass production as the most honorable way, and we must forfeit the idea that lower cost equals higher value.
If we are going to claim that Jesus worked to love his enemies and calls us to do the same–we must rethink what it means to ‘support the war’ and we must reevaluate our sarcastic comments to our coworkers.
If we say the Church has a hope in Christ–that the Church cannot die… than we must die.
We must die to the god of the dollar,
for this god cannot support us.
We must die to the god of the ipod,
for this god cannot comfort and console us.
We must die to the god of the blackberry,
for in this god we find more chaos than peace.
We must die to the god of affluence,
for this god is our mirror image.
But this dying is not a sorrowful death–unless we cling too tightly to the things we cannot take with us. This death is backwards. We let go of our ‘right-handed’ power in place of left-handed marginal action. We relinquish our desire to control and instead seek discipline and guidance. We deny the support of the Empire–for our allegiance is to a Kingdom not of this world. In giving up our life we are given new life. Not a life meant for later. But a beautiful journey, a pilgrimage on which we now embark. So then, we must die. Not once, but daily. And in our death we proclaim the Kingdom is both here, and yet to come.