This week my Facebook feed has filled up with articles about church. How to be a vital church, how to attract Millennials (back?) to church, how to welcome children in church, how to create intergenerational church, and a few other topics I’m not remembering at the moment. Maybe it’s the coming of Pentecost that is causing so many to reflect on what it means to be Church.
Reading through these articles and then reading this week’s lectionary texts, I’m struck by the idea that we might just be focusing on the wrong things. In the reading from Acts Peter asks, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” For me this raises the question about who Church is for. Over the 20 centuries since Jesus, we have set up all kinds of rules and systems to determine who is in and who is not. If all receive the Holy Spirit equally, should not all who come seeking be welcomed with the same generosity? It’s not that baptism should be taken lightly, but we would do well to remember that God knows our hearts, our minds, our spirits before we are washed with the waters of baptism.
In the same way Jesus said, “love one another as I love you.” He was speaking to his disciples, of course. Yet, these words are so much bigger than group of twelve who first heard them. Love one another. Accept Jesus’ invitation to friendship and befriend one another. Then there are no members and non-members; there are only friends. This kind of friendship is risky and demanding, though. It isn’t like the BFF notions of today that often seem lighthearted, almost frivolous. Jesus spoke of a friendship so deep that friends would give their lives for one another. This is powerful and spiritual in the sense of the Holy Spirit and the human spirit working together, strengthening relationships and community.
It’s time for churches to stop focusing on doing Church better. It’s time to focus on being Church. Let’s stop worrying about how many people are in the pews and focus on spreading the Good News of the Gospel: In Christ there is abundant life for all people.
A while back I heard an article on NPR about the Millennial generation. After a series of interviews, the article concluded that Millennials are searching for meaning and purpose. They don’t seem to be finding this in work, relationships, or leisure activities. So many churches have tried to attract this generation of folks with glitz and glamour. It doesn’t work well. The Church has an answer to the questions of meaning and purpose and belonging that cannot be found elsewhere. We have a message of value, of love, of belonging, of the abundance of God’s love and grace. If we live this message authentically and keep our doors, our hearts open, and our minds open the Church will flourish. Yes, it may be very different from the church many of us remember from childhood. However, if different means welcoming all who come seeking and creating friendship with and through Christ, then count me in.
O sing to God a new song, for God has done marvelous things.
RCL – Year B – Sixth Sunday of Eastertide – May 10, 2015
Acts 10: 44-48
1 John 5: 1-6
2 thoughts on “Being Church”
Thanks for this timely reflection, Rachael. In our welcoming group at Faith Lutheran in Winona this past Monday evening we performed David Weiss’ Readers’ Theater piece on Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-39) (http://www.welcomingresources.org/6-HeartsUnbound-EthiopianEunuch.pdf). Philip’s baptism of this man, who was not permitted to enter the temple because of his identity as a eunuch, is especially meaningful to me. Our Church today would do well to emulate the early messengers of the Gospel in the Christian community .
Jaimieann, thanks for reading! Sounds like you have a great group there in Winona. I agree that the Church today would do well to be more attentive to the early Church.