Sunday, August 12, 2018

Being the Church You Wish to See

The church I envision doesn't exist.

Like the Quakers, the church I envision believes in the equality of all people. Anyone can be a minister. All it requires is an openness to the continuing revelation of the Spirit, born of sitting in reverent silence and listening for the still, small voice within.

Like the Catholics, it embraces the rhythm of the liturgical seasons and doesn't shy away from sacred tradition. It pursues goodness, truth, and beauty as key to the spiritual life. It has its share of mystics and contemplatives who plumb the deeper meanings of scripture and discover an intimate connection to the divine that can't be expressed, only experienced. It possesses a rich social teaching that reminds us that it is our Christian duty to help the "least of these." It embraces the communion of saints and shows great reverence to the Blessed Virgin.

Like the Orthodox, it embraces tradition and finds itself more comfortable with mystery and less concerned with dogmatic definitions.

Like the Episcopalians, it allows men and women alike to lead their flocks, and it acknowledges that the communion table is God's, not the church's, and is therefore open to all.

Like the Anabaptists, it takes Jesus' message of nonviolent enemy-love seriously. Rather than pushing aside Jesus' challenging teachings and making excuses for why we don't have to pay attention to what he said, it puts the Sermon on the Mount front and center and assumes that Jesus actually meant what he said. It makes Jesus the lens through which we view the rest of scripture, rather than going first to Paul and the Old Testament and reducing Jesus to a creed or a ticket to heaven.

Like no mainstream church does, it seeks to raise up and exalt the Sacred Feminine, both for a culture that needs more nurturing tenderness and less heated aggression, and to restore balance to a spiritual tradition that has largely shut out women's voices. It celebrates the women of the Bible and the inspiring stories of the female saints. It exalts Mary as our spiritual mother, a model Christian, and an unsurpassed example of faith and humility. And it rediscovers the role of Sophia and her contribution to the history of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

This church, then, doesn't see God exclusively as male but also doesn't shy away from tradition in calling him Father. Yet it also actively seeks out the Mother, in Sophia, in the Holy Spirit, in the Blessed Virgin, in creation itself.

The church I envision puts Christ's words first, seeks God in contemplation, pursues peace and justice, sees Jesus in the poor and marginalized and forgotten, embraces radical nonviolence and nonresistance, raises up the sacred feminine, treats all with equality and dignity, allows men and women alike to lead, and opens its table to all who approach. 

It's open to fresh ideas and continuing revelation yet doesn't allow itself to be blown to and fro by every modern whim and innovation that comes along. 

It holds that how you act is far more important than what you say you believe, and it accordingly doesn't bury Christ under dogmas and creeds. 

It avoids the alluring trap of cheap grace and takes seriously the proclamation that faith without works is dead. 

It finds no glory in war but rather sees violence as a human failure, and believes that you can't love your enemy if you're trying to kill him. 

It puts its faith in the Kingdom of God, not the kingdoms of men, and therefore seeks to disentangle the cross from the flag and Jesus from empire. 

It doesn't worship the Bible, but rather believes that the written word forever points us toward the Living Word of God.

Most importantly, it always leads with love. Love is its eternal default.

When you can't find the church you envision, do you settle for the best you can find from the existing options, or do you start your own? That's the question of the day. If time and health were in more abundance for me, the answer would be simple. For now, it's something I need to take some time to reflect upon in prayer and contemplation.

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