, , , , , , ,

Jesus-rabbiRobin Meyer’s in his book “Saving Jesus from the Church,” makes an important and seminal point. Our churches today, at least too many of them are creedal in nature, and are self-centered. It’s all about what you must believe and nothing about what you should do. It’s believe this, and get this in return.

I’ll be reviewing the book later this week I, and don’t want to delve too deeply into his argument, but in a sense I think they reflect what Presiding Bishop Schiori was getting at in her remarks at the convention has week. We too often spend all our efforts as church in defining what a person must believe in order to be saved. We in essence talk almost exclusively on what it means to worship Christ, instead of what it means to follow Jesus.

This is what falls so clangingly on the ears of the fallen away or never there people of our country and world. The see the hypocrisy over what we claim about Christ and that we fail to do little to live out his teachings. We ask folks to swallow a set of dogmas and creeds, that ask us to suspend belief and if we do so, we are somehow saved for a life of eternal bliss. Yet we don’t act in any way worthy of that end.

We insist that all inconsistencies and out right falsehoods in the bible are somehow reconciled when they are not. Archaeological evidence doesn’t support the claims, nor does biblical exegesis. We tell them they don’t understand, but in fact they do. They come down essentially where all the scholars do, or most of them. We lose the beautiful message of Genesis in an attempt to prove that Adam and Eve were real and that somehow we are born sinful. We concoct strange doctrines of “limbo,” since abandoned, to “cover” babies who die before being baptized. We look foolish, we sound foolish, and rational thinking persons turn away in disgust at our voodoo explanations.

It’s all about my salvation, and my sin, and my confessions, and my proper worship. And faith is not about me. It’s about, as Bishop Schiori rightly says, US. We remove the layers of “church” speak from the bible and we are left with the wonder of an itinerant preacher who was so mesmerizing in what he said that his followers forever felt they were changed and that he never left them. He taught us to love and be respectful of each other, to help one another, to feed, clothe, nurse, and comfort each other. He taught us right relationship with God, and not the Pharisaic alternative of ritual, and tradition done for tradition’s sake.

But we, in our busyness to organize and spread the Word, and be the leader, shut out all the voices that didn’t sound like ours and we instituted the ritual and the tradition all over again, just changing it to “ours” rather than “theirs.” We, in direct opposition to what the Jewish rabbi taught us, made it all us and them again. Join our club, or risk damnation. Believe what we believe.

Someone actually said yesterday on a forum that the Episcopal Church had gotten “too caught up in social justice.” How does one get too caught up? When is there too much social justice? This sort of orthodoxy is insane to me. It’s incantations and recitations and somehow God is pleased? Seriously, people argue that because some words were changed in ordination liturgy, Episcopalians have “lost” apostolic succession. This of course from the church that wants to claim it exclusively to itself. How convenient one must ask. But surely, you don’t think God cares a whit do you? About the words used? Might the heart be his concern?

Meanwhile, millions of people consider themselves spiritual and feel something bigger than themselves but have no vehicle that gathers that energy and love. For they can’t return to the purveyors of a lie. The lie being that words and such make us Christian, make us Godly people. They can smell a rat. 

That is the field we need to tend. All those who desire for meaning in their lives, who want to make a difference, who want to feel connected with humanity and the world. We, the institutional church, can serve as that meeting place, if and only if we return to the center of things. God. And God is in the message delivered by that sublime carpenter. Love God, and love neighbor. In fact, by loving neighbor we love God. Turn no one away. Stop worrying about what they believe, and welcome their help and service. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Heal the sick. Visit the incarcerated. Live Jesus.

I am an Episcopalian because I believe that my Church gets that. It is teaching me how to live that out. I am grateful. I am blessed. I am being transformed. As John Dominic Crossan has said, “Emmaus never happened. Emmaus always happens.”

Bookmark and Share