When I started this blog, almost 1000 posts ago, it was to address afterthoughts from my first book, Repo,The Church in Foreclosure. That was hard enough for this long time churchman to communicate. Now perhaps my assignment is even more difficult. High risk has never bothered me, but that doesn't make it painless for one who deeply loves people!
I love the Body of Christ and the fellowship of the saints, what was for most of my life the Church movement in general. There seemed a need for different stripes, almost anyone could find a fit somewhere, a means of alignment with similar believers on this journey toward loving others and doing great good. The problem came as I watched for transformational impact in our communities, by way of the investments made across the various campuses within our community. ROI!
I have also labored over scripture for 50 years, and of late begun to further question, no, reason through what I was taught as the primary construct for studying the Canon. The basic belief that there was an Old Covenant as captured in the text of the Old Testament, which foretold a New that would eventually fulfill the Old. I could clearly see the logic for that design as a transition from ancient idolatry, to the concept of a loving Supreme Being, who manifest as the Christ.
However, instead of now walking people fully into the New, the Institutional approach is to walk them back through the Old to get to the New, with all good intent. Thus the evangelical concept of the Roman Road, taken from Paul's letter to the Romans. Somewhere in that wash, we have lost the once powerful Baby!
Rather than viewing Romans as an inspired letter to a specific sect of Judaism, written to help them see the why behind the Christ, we have made it into a modern day methodology to build a case for "coming out from among them." The them being others, sinners, those who do not believe like we believe, and yet even we in the numerous churches can't agree on the basics sufficient to serve as one Body of believers. Sure we can get together for an occasional event, but we soon retreat back to the safe ground of our own campus.
As well meaning as the intent, this logic has not only divided Christianity, but has segregated the Church from the real world, isolating Christians from the very place they were being called to!
As the great Moravian benefactor, Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf once said, “There can be no Christianity without community.”
Paul's words to the Galatians were:
"O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Gal. 3:1-2.
In this post-Christian world, God may now be saying to the Church, "How's that working for you."
If you are concerned about where this post seems to be leading, I am too, but my calling in this moment is a loving transparency. I know that such thought causes the fundamentalist to further close their minds to any new revelation. Had Luther succumbed to that, there would be no such conversation nor freedom of thought, though freedom is the prize found in this box of Cracker Jacks we call religion!
Writing those off who may now be called to deconstruct once more what religion has done to the works of Christ, may be a bigger error than the threat of heresy.
Among those with whom I was raised, their out was to declare such behavior as "end times" error, moreso than a progressive revelation of grace, a new tongue for a new day, if I might lean toward the language of Pentecost.
Those 120 people gathered in that Upper Room where they had earlier wirnessed the first Communion, soon spoke a language they had not learned "in Church". However with purpose being to communicate a new hope to those unsuspecting multitudes from multiple cultures, who had come simply to pay their taxes!
God is full of surprises, though all seem mysteriously aligned with man's determined sway toward a comfortable more institutionalized religion. I say that because of how God tracted a truly transformational moment, "The Word become flesh" along the very path religion had crafted, the Passover, Pentecost and one day perhaps even Trumpets!
Talk about good stories, consider Peter's thrill at Pentecost, likely facing a death sentence for cutting off the right ear of Malchus, the High Priest's slave, boldly and publically declaring, "This is that which the prophet Joel declared."
Pardon my brain, but have to also stop here and point out what a painful but life changing moment that must have been for Malchus. Think about the story he could tell! "You see this ear, let me tell you about my God moment in the garden!" That ain't religion anymore but reality. I didn't lose an ear, but the stories I can tell keep me in the game, moreso than the Sundays I have spent, or the years invested in church work.
I still love church, but only when there are real demonstrations of true Presense, and the occasional manifestation of the power resident in us as believers by way the Spirit. Songs and sermons have their place in worship and discipleship but the "marketplace" is where the proof is found in the pudding.
Back to Romans.
We like to use Paul's legal case as justification for requiring folk to walk back through Judaism to get to grace. I think for some it may even stroke a little ego, such as witnessed in a courtroom with a master prosecutor or defense attorney. Paul's writings surely have that feel. Yet, that was necessary in his moment, maybe moreso than ours.
To labor through that is beneficial, yet at the end of the day the message is plain, we are saved, rescued, enlightened, transformed (choose your word) by grace, a gift of God. The means by which that gift was delivered was an act of love by God, not some justice for sin move only to appease the wrath stirred by our stupidity. Much more than that, it was God walking a people out of the rituals and sacrifices religion had required.
What better message than a letter sealed by his physical death at the hands of the religious in order to contrast true love with religion. "It is finished" you are loved, forgiven, transformed, even empowered, if you can get beyond what religion has so engrained in you.
I understand those who have left the church and are now trying to unlearn, to deconstruct their beliefs, some even claiming religious trauma.
God really loves us, this powerful Presence that was first manifest in the galaxies, a Presense that the lesser creatures know better than we humans. Don't make this hard, childlike was Jesus' recommendation.
I once walked on a section of the Roman Road while visiting the country side around Lebanon, I prefer level sidewalks, even to the best placed stones of ancient civilizations!