|He who chase worn out is|
It is very much the thing these days that the church becomes the next accessory. In an age of choice, you expect to find a church to suit your mood, pocket, energy levels and outlook. And yes, there will be a church for you, somewhere.
To suggest that the church is but a mere accessory may seem a little brutal, probably bordering on the heretical and likely the meat and spuds of the atheist's delight. But we are. And why? Because it is the path we have chosen for ourselves.
Today I joined a conversation late, listened in a for a while, and then did as I do, and threw a spanner in the works. How should the church change, was the question. Important stuff, to be sure, and many answers emerged that made sense of you were a butterfly net possessing key-ring accessory clipped to the belt of society. Where society goes, we are to be dragged - trying to be funky and down with the kids.
I have often wondered if we are not meant to be quite different. I wonder if, rather than being the reactive playmate of a society that doesn't entirely understand us, whether we are called to be solid, stable and well, rock like. We seem to want to be a community of crowd pleasers in an age where the great problem is endless crowd pleasers. Yes, the world is changing, and yes we should adapt - but I wonder if in the end, we are still meant to look, feel, taste and smell like a solid fixed and rooted church.
Part of the issue is the pursuit of numbers like so many butterflies in a summer field. In church life in the twenty-first century big is best and small is symbolic of a symptomatic failure somewhere by someone. Yes, big is good if big is nourished big, every individual cherished big, everyone's name known big and we still care about you despite looking for the next newbie big. The issue as I see it with "Introductory Offer" Christianity with well-marketed easy ways to become part of Big Church, is that I wonder how the loyalists of twenty years or more feel. That said, there are many good things to be said for that model of evangelism, so it is hard to know what the Lord wants.
This Sunday's gospel suggests that rejection is a part of discipleship. Jesus Christ, the bloke in the story, well he was rejected. This makes me wonder if the church shouldn't embody something of the "rejected people" too. Were any of us meant to be crowd pleasers? Is church an on-demand thing like the myriad myriad channels on the Telly? In all of this, society sets the standard, not the church. Where society goes, church tried to keep up like a lolloping puppy behind its master. I believe, with increasing strength, that the church is called to be the standard, to "hold the line", to be The Rock, and not regard Rocks as being rather stuck in the mud!
Society seems to want something better. It seems to want more in terms of depth and spiritual richness - and where are we? Trying to comply - with a good heart and in the best of faith - to the standard set by that society in its emotional poverty. In other words, we are the good-hearted parents being told how to live by the kids, not parents who create the framework for existence so that our children may flourish.