Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I am Deathly Ill, and loving it.

There is a lot of talk about what ails the church and how these things will eventually destroy the church as we know it.  In my denomination (PCUSA) there is a group that says we're "deathly ill."  They say this as if we have some form of cancer that needs to be cut out and then maybe by some miracle we'll be able to live on.  Well I might be able to agree we're deathly ill, but only in the sense that I'm deathly ill.  I have diabetes, it appeared randomly and without warning.  Doctors are still confused as to why and how I have this, I have no family history and no medical/lifestyle issues that would have logically led to this disease.  Yet here I am.  It will eventually directly or indirectly lead to my death if I live out my life to that point.  But that is what proves my point: I don't know what will kill me, I do very consciously know that I will die at some point and that I have an illness that will lead to death, but I don't know that it WILL kill me, I don't know if it does HOW it will happen, and I don't know WHEN I will stop existing physically on  this earth.

So if I am to argue that the church (like many of us) does have things that will eventually kill it within it, what does that mean?  Should we be changing everything?  Should we just hope for the best?  Or do we realize that we have a purpose regardless, and continue to aim at that purpose, recognizing our weaknesses, dealing with them within the larger picture.  So often we as people name ourselves after our weaknesses. I do it too.  I'm a diabetic, I'm an Aspie, I'm an Extrovert...I am I guess these things, but to state them this way is to say "this is the core of who I am" which is a very false statement.  I have diabetes, I live with Asperger's syndrome, I need people to be energized.  These statements are much more true, they acknowledge things that are part of me for better or for worse, but don't define me by these things. They also are all things I can control, they won't go away, but I can recognize issues that come up and deal with them rather than hiding behind the "illness."

So often when we look at the problems of the church we start defining the church by these problems.  This leads to a view that whatever issue is at the center is less of a process of change and growth and more of something that needs urgent attention.  There are times the church needs urgent care, but that really can only happen on the local level (like surgery on a tendon/dealing with individuals) when it comes to the systemic issues of the church, we need to be constantly living with the struggles and realizing that these problems are most often not the end, but part of our journey of faithfulness and discernment.  We do have some big issues in the church because we are diverse people struggling to understand who God is and what life is about.  These are things that no matter our personal experiences, are not complete certainties.  They are, in my opinion, the very reason for existence.  We are discovering what it means to be what we were created to be. Created in God's image and as stewards of creation.  It is our struggles to understand what those things mean that eventually tears the organizational church apart, but when and how, and even if this happens is not something we'll know until it occurs.  So to use a analogy from the world of diabetes: rather than reacting by throwing out all the sugar and carbs, why don't we see what our bodies can handle and what life looks like.  We may be surprised by how we can find balance and joy just by trying to faithfully live out who we really are...The Body of Christ.

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