What do people think the church is for? Comfort? “religion”? Truth? Salvation? Service?
Ahhh, there it is – the ultimate service industry. Religion, having been comfortably institutionalized, now must become industrialized. We in the church are expected (by nearly everyone except the truly faithful or the fearfully pious) to produce processes that are interchangeable – off the rack dispensations that help us endure (or ignore) the realities of life, death and everything in between.
For those who cling to the funeral as the last great tablet upon which to write the script of someone’s return to religion/the church…I have a hot flash – it will never happen.
The church is becoming the place to deal with the one thing that our society has no time for – death – and even that cannot last. Society wants, more and more, to encounter death on society’s terms. So forget the funeral liturgy, and let us instead consider all that is ‘memorial’. Keep it light; keep it positive; for heaven’s sake don’t mention death.
Other rights of passage have been seconded to the church – marriage, and baptism help us feel like we are reaching out into the ‘real world’ – but the baptismal water is no sooner dried than the child is deemed “too busy” for church, and the family busies itself with activities that feed the body and drain the pocketbook (but increase a sense of social standing). The churches role in the so-called ‘institution’ of marriage will never be taken seriously again, since we fail to understand the way in which that particular institution has evolved, and insist (in some circles) that since the church has held its ground, then the church must be correct. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As for the churches obsession with its own membership; until we reaffirm in people a sense of deep commitment to something greater than themselves, we are nothing more that the most affordable social club in the country, whose dues are self imposed, and whose attendance regulations are laughable.
So what is the church really for?
We have clearly lost sight of our purpose – and those beyond our reach are forced to find their own default positions where faith is concerned – what will guide me through this or that – we don’t yet believe we can navigate these moments on our own; we still want guidance – or more properly, we want someone to enable our miserable attempts at finding our way
Caricatures of meaning – combo-platter thinking applied to gourmet situations like birth and death – commitment and caution – my God, it’s a wonder the church has survived this long…momentum and inertia; the keys to success – unfortunately, that same momentum/inertia combination is what stops any meaningful evolution in the system.
So I’m naïve – but I’m not stupid. I can scream for change until the structure collapses, or they drag me away and hand me my hat.
Is that what you want, God? Is that our fate, when we seek to change our lives and order them – however imperfectly – after the one who did just that; preach the coming change – scream at the lazy, inertia-fed leaders of the people of God, until they conspired with the civic authorities to have him “removed” The joke is on them, though – They didn’t realize who they were dealing with.
No, not Jesus – if it was only Jesus, he would have remained nothing but an historical footnote.
They were taking on God – in all God’s magnificent mystery – incarnate in one Jesus of Nazareth – crucified, dead and buried – well looked after – at least, until the third day, upon which the sun still has not set.