Tuesday, April 27, 2010

why church?

I just finished reading a friend's manuscript called "Why God?". In his book, Bob McAdams leads his readers on a quest to sift through our common human experiences of reason, truth, good and evil, time, and beauty to "gather from this richness some new thoughts about the reasons for belief and non-belief in God."

It was while I reading his chapter titled, "the shoe that does not fit", that I recognized I was on yet another quest.
"Our cosmology, the etched and stained transparent dome through which we view the universe, like every other part of our lives is in motion. Within our cosmology, our roles require that we constantly ask and answer the question, “What shall I do next?” What happens to a cosmology that is itself in motion? Can a cosmology also be subject to this same ‘what next’ question? Do we outgrow a cosmology in the same way we outgrow shoes? Can a cosmology simply not fit, simply give us daily, constant pain that forces us to face the options of holding on and suffering or letting go of the cosmology itself?"
The cosmology that I am struggling with, against, and often simultaneously for, is no longer why God?, it's why church? What is next for the church as an idea and for church as the reality that I participate in weekly?  Coincidentally, I've stumbled across lots of interesting quotes about church this week.
"Church should only be about comfort for the sick, the dying, the grieving, and the oppressed. Everybody else--buck up and change the world." - Diana Butler Bass
"it’s about the people, people. not the programs. not the banner-waving on others’ behalf. not the countless other things that can seem important but take away from what was at the essence of Jesus’ message & incarnation–love people. love people. love people." - kathy escobar
"After all, the church is relatively irrelevant as it stands in most other parts of today’s social fabric, meaning, the church won’t receive any congratulation except from itself." - Deacon Hall
"Jesus as somehow a window on God; Jesus as somehow a norm that transcends ideas, ideals, and principles but also serves as a standard for them; Jesus as somehow a living reality who confronts as often as he comforts. Christians don't need – indeed perhaps would be better off without – the traditional ways of trying to express these matters and the traditional confidence that their doctrinal assertions can actually contain the full truth of these matters. The truly hard intellectual work for disciples of Jesus today is to re-express our relationship with Jesus and our glimpses of God by re-contextualizing them into a far less complete and confident frame of reference." - Tom Wilkens
"The clergyman and the layman - who together form God's mission people - definitely have a different function in it. Permit me to put it in this somewhat schematic way: the minister must take care of the continuity, he guards the tradition; he must preserve and may easily be a bit conservative. The layman, on the other hand, takes care of the progressive movement, thrusts himself into the actualities of life; he must develop and build.

Both these functions belong together. It is good not only when there is harmony between them but there remains some tension as well. We must not sound the alarm when the layman can hardly stand the church any longer. That does not have to imply that he looks down upon everything as it is being done. It can also mean that the layman understands his function well and for this reason goes into loyal opposition. We are mortally afraid of those tensions and write church papers full about them, but that does not strike me as a cause for concern. Concerned we must become when the laity meekly walk in step behind the preacher. Then they have lost their function. Because then it becomes apparent that they have moved from the world into the church, and it belongs to the grandeur and misery of the layman that he experiences his membership in the church in an extra-ecclesiastical way." - The Church Inside Out by J.C. Hoekendijk

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