It all began with Bill, and his rather delightful polemic, The People Formerly Known as the Congregation. Bill was thinking out of the box a little and using a rubric that had been used in another format in order to get our collective attention. He accomplished that. Several others jumped aboard the train (Grace, Jamie A-R, John, Lyn, Greg, Dan, Heidi, Copernicus, Sola Gratia, Brother Maynard, and Paul) and wrote other pointed pieces that continued in that vein and I think we are now up to parts 9, or perhaps 10. I donâ€™t know, my reading turned to skimming somewhere around part 5. I just got sad. I began to see backlash on institutional church blogs; people who are linking to these in anger and bitter humor.Â (UPDATE:Â several hours after posting this I read the second of Brother Maynard’s three part series in this meme.Â Dear Reader, you really need to as well.Â Â My post is but a shadow on the wall.)
More than that, an ever-widening rift is developing between the old and the new. The piece of the Church that was to be â€œjust a conversationâ€ is hardening itâ€™s lines or perhaps the lines are being drawn for it and the piece that is the old, the institutional Church, is calling names and making faces. Oh, itâ€™s being slightly more dignified than that, but itâ€™s the adult version of, â€œIâ€™m packing up the marbles and keeping them for myself. Nyah.â€
So, what follows has been on my mind for quite some time now. I began writing it over a year ago. The imagery comes and goes, but I have not been able to get it out of my head (which probably is some indication of my level of insanity). I began reading the latest round of postings which began with Billâ€˜s TPFKATC with hope that has degenerated into sadness. We are all continuing to circle the drain with our anger. Itâ€™s not that anger or expressing it is bad, but we must begin to harness it into something constructive, redemptive, conciliatory or we will ultimately lose the true battle which we ought to be fighting.
As you read what follows, please understand that I am in NO manner attempting to speak the mind of Jesus. I am taking the metaphor of the Bride and Bridegroom and playing it out in imaginative fashion; so, dear reader, you may make of it whatever you will.
The People Known As The Bride of Christ
Jesus is coming. Jesus the Bridegroom. He is coming for His Bride. He dressed in his tuxedo. He’s been preparing the universe for this time since He called time into being. He’s longing for this Bride dressed in dazzling white. Pure. Clean. If He is to be Lord of Lords, then His Bride will be the Queen in the Kingdom of God.
What sort of Bride do we present Him with? At the moment, she is dressed in the tatters of a whore, no dazzling white here. She is behaving as though she is possessed of multiple personality disorder. In serious distress, this disorder is causing her multiple personalities to be at war with one another as she stands at the back of the church ready to walk down the aisle.
Now Jesus sees past the clothing and the MPD; He sees only His beautiful Bride. Not so the guests at the wedding. They are frightened by the spectacle of the tattered rags, ratty hair, dirty skin and raging arguments from within one person. They are leaving the church in small groups, and ones and twos. Slowly, but they are leaving. The banquet feast that Jesus has set for them is not enough to keep them there.
It soon becomes apparent that the wedding which was a central event in society, written up in all the best papers is now so insignificant that it’s barely worth mentioning by word of mouth. It was to have happened in the big church in the middle of town, but now it’s being held in the tiny little church down the road a ways. There just aren’t enough guests anymore. The Bride has frightened them all away with her squabbling, fractious nature and all of the rules she set for coming to the wedding.
Jesus opened the doors wide. The Bride started to close them. No drinking she said. No smoking. No dancing. Only come on Sunday. Wear beautiful clothes. I must have beautiful clothes. And your hair must be just so. Make sure your children behave. Raise your hands in worship. No, don’t. Yes, do. No.
These things and more are the issues She is now fighting about within Herself.More and more guests just keep slipping away. And The Bride? Well, She appears to be unaware, indifferent; far more concerned with her inner demons than with her guests. She knows she ought to be thinking of them and their needs, but she cannot seem to pull her eyes off of herself.
I have not written this because I feel that we ought all just get along and sweep our differences under the rug. I’ve written it because I feel that we ought to be picking our battles more wisely. There are really only a few battles that need to be fought. â€œIn things essential, unity; in doubtful, liberty; in all things, charity.â€ Thomas aKempis. Is the church possessed by demons? I don’t know. But we’ve become a fringe element of society and it might be good to think about embracing that rather than continuing to act as if we’re the biggest show in town. Arguing about how to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic is a waste of time and energy. But perhaps we could learn some new patterns and begin to work together in and through our differences. Reminding ourselves of what we have in common more regularly might be a good place to start.
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen