Love/Hate/Love

Week 4, Day 5

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

I Corinthians 12. 27

I love the church. That said, however, I have to admit I’ve always had a rather ambivalent relationship with her.

She has shaped me and malformed me; changed me for the better and for the worse. She has brought me to moments of great joy and made me spitting mad—sometimes both the same day, or hour.

When I was young the church offered me a place of stability and predictability when the rest of my life offered neither. In my college and seminary years she bought me expansive challenges but also suffocating limitations.

The church has thrilled me and bored me. She has encouraged me and disappointed me. There have been times when she has breathed for me when I couldn’t breathe for myself, and there have been times when she has very nearly devoured my soul.

Nevertheless I persist. I love the church.

I love the liturgies and the lessons and the seasons. I love the music, the fellowship, the prayers and the community. And of course, I love the potlucks—almost as much as church itself.

The church evokes my better angels, raises my standards and embodies another, better world. What’s not to love?

So what has she done for you lately?

Here are two questions we can ask each other that would, undoubtedly, lead to some fascinating conversations: What has the church done for you? What has the church done to you? Given our tendency toward piety, I suspect that for most of us that first question will be a lot easier to answer than the second. But honesty encourages us to consider both.

The church is, after all, a very human institution. We may be the Body of Christ in Mt Vernon but, in our case as in every other, the body is comprised of some less that perfect parts. So to ask what the church has done to you is necessary, and not disrespectful. There is some freedom to be gained in knowing where we are responsible and where we have been affected by the irresponsibility of others.

And then we should flip those two questions. What have we done for the church—this body made up of our family, friends and neighbors? And what have we done to it? Where has our contribution been life giving and where has it been otherwise?

There is much to question—and to disown, about the church from her past, her present and in the course she appears, in some manifestations anyway, to be taking into the future.

But there is, I will persist in saying, much more to love.

When Mother Teresa looked into the face of the poor she always saw Jesus. I suspect when God looks into the face of the motley Body of Christ we are, that vision of Jesus is re-revealed. There flows from both those visions—Mother Teresa’s and God’s, an encompassing love. Here there is rest. Here there is hope.

Prayer: God, make us bold in our questioning, humble in our answering, trusting in our fear, hopeful in our confusion and in all things loving in our response—in all these ways as you are toward us. Amen.

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