This last week we began a three-part BLOGFORCE challenge about the church. The challenge was, “What is the reason for the church’s existence?” Who are we and what do we do? The next question will be about Anglicanism, and the third about the Episcopal Church. This week, we are asking about the worldwide church in all it’s diversity, faithfulness, and sometime failure.
Thanks to all those who participated! Below are the abstracts and the links to the original Blog Posts.
My answer to “Why the Church?” is quite simply, because I think it is impossible to live the life of faith on our own. Saving the famous St. Augustine quote for someone more bold than myself, I’ll say this, the Church is a “wonderful and sacred mystery” all right, but I love her.
Why church? Because we can’t help being the body of Christ. We are unavoidably the church—warts and all. But the church is both a human and divine institution, which means the incarnation gives us hope.
In a world divided by sin and alienation, and in my own life of loss, hints of resurrection and reconciliation; the Church has been the closest thing to a cure that I have found.
Beginning with a haiku, as summer isn’t quite over. A bardic librarian demonstrates how the Church lives out its purpose, to proclaim the Gospel, through stories. There is an emphasis on a unity that celebrates all voices. A unity that challenges us as a church to listen, to hear the Gospel proclaimed back to us in the Holy stories of those we meet.
That is why we need church, not to solve our problems, make us better people, teach us values, or give us answers, but to give us a space and a place to live with the mystery. In the liturgy, I hear it, I feel it, I smell it, I eat it, I drink it, I bask in it, I love it. I meet others, also imperfect, also beautiful, also beloved children of God, and I learn to love them, too. At church, the mystery of the grace of God in Christ loves me back.
The Church gives us a community in which we can develop our spiritual skills, keep one another accountable, and be reinvigorated and rejuvenated for our work of creating disciples and sharing Christ’s love in the world. Church keeps us honest, it holds a mirror up to our faces so that we can see ourselves for what we are – beloved creations of God who are broken but who have been redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Church exists to proclaim salvation. We can differ on the precise nature of this salvation but we cannot debate that, by Love, Christ has come that all might be free. The Church’s primary function is first and foremost the adoration of that God who loves us. Out of that adoration flows love for that which He loves – our fellow humanity. Before our doctrine came a meal. The first Eucharists were offered in Remembrance before the books of the Bible were chosen and the Creeds written. The Church, existing before humanity realized it, offers the hope of partaking in the more that is of God. So we pray for more. We pray that we may know Christ and make him known.
So you want my TL;DR? Well, the question was “Why the Church? I say that we, the Church, are the community of people answering the call to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world today.
My first call out of seminary was to serve as New Congregation Minister for a church plant. I still believe this call was a miracle and evidence of God’s providence: in those days I was a Unitarian Universalist Christian – this was the only church available to me. Even though the church closed five years ago, a recent reunion and the gift of one of the church’s last pieces of property reminded me powerfully of the reason for the church’s existence. The church is the only institution whose sole purpose is to proclaim the good news of God’s reign.
The answer is easy, but the question is hard. We are called to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth, but why? What is it the Good News is supposed to change? The church is intended to be the community that enshrines the divine cycle of non-violence against the human cycle of violence. We often fail spectacularly, and sometimes become complicit in the cycle of violence itself. But ultimately, When we get it right, we stand against violence in our culture and in our own hearts, whether that is to others or to ourselves.
The Rev. David Simmons, BLOGFORCE Wing Commander
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