We Are Church

So the overarching idea that ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton sent out a couple years back is that We Are Church.  I’m curious what thought that statement brought to mind when you first heard it.  When someone says to you, “We Are Church” what comes to mind?

It sounds so obvious in many ways but I also tend to think that when we think that we are church we are prone to think in terms of we are Spirit of Hope in a standalone building next to Amigos and Great Wall in the Highlands.  This is true in a physical sense I suppose and I hate to admit that when someone asks me where my church is I say, “we’re in a standalone building next to Amigos and Great Wall in the Highlands.”  You may be guessing from the previous weeks here in Lent that church is only technically a building.  Even at that, it really isn’t a building but instead it probably meets in a building.  Beyond that, at least according to our creeds, the church doesn’t have much to do with a building.  In terms of Jesus Christ the church is ever so much more than a building. In terms of church being the Body of Christ, it is ever so much more than a building.

Throughout this Lenten season you’ve been hearing about the different aspects of what that means.  We are One, We are Holy, We are Catholic, and We Are Apostolic.  Out of these ideas, which one spoke to you the loudest?  Which one connected with you?

Being the church isn’t necessarily straightforward, is it?  I mean, you could come to church every week on Sunday and never give church another thought until the following Sunday.  Church is a building you go to every week and then it is taken care of.  You could do that and I guess there are some people who do exactly that and when you see church as a building you go to once a week then it’s no wonder that there in nary another thought the rest of the week.  But as we’ve been hearing these past few weeks, if we are a follower of Jesus  there is more to it than just showing up for an hour on Sunday.  Being the church may not be straightforward but if we are to make sense of being the body of Christ it is important to define our terms.

It’s important for us to define what we mean by church because if we can’t say what that means, no one else is going to sort it out for us.  Plus, the church has a bad reputation in so many circles that Bringing Christ’s Love to Life is problematic because so many people don’t want to hear about it.  I’m not blaming the church, although we need to own why some people dislike the church, and I’m not blaming people who don’t come to church, although some people need to own why they don’t like the church.  However it slices and dices, our job is to figure out how to connect with people in a way that they can hear our good news.

I don’t know if these four elements of the church are the sum total of what it means to be the church but it is a pretty good start.  If we recognize that together we are one, holy, catholic and apostolic, as we claim we are, then we really are church.  More importantly, if we can help others see that together we are one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, then maybe they’ll see church in a different way.

The protestant branch of the Christian church is plagued with a lack of oneness.  There will come a day that Christ’s church, the body of Christ, will once again be one.  That’s our goal but to get there, we’ve got to quit being so hell bent on territory and turf, insisting on hard line agreement on all things big and small.  We can agree to disagree on almost anything because at the core of our being as followers of Christ we have one common purpose, one common love, and common Lord, all bound into one Christ manifested in the water of baptism and the bread and wine of communion.

In the same way we are holy.  Not because we all do the right and proper things and the correct times but because the one Christ comes to each of us and makes us holy.  Through what HE has done, not because of what we have done.  Set apart, not because we’re better but because we’ve been claimed by God in and through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Being claimed by God in and through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit applies to each of us, equally and without qualification and in that claiming we become universal.  It’s hard to see sometimes because we forget that together we are one and that we are holy but sometimes things break through that remind us we are universal.  We talk about Kicks for Kids a great deal, and rightly so, but I just heard of another church in Omaha that is doing something similar.  They’re a medium size church with a lot of economic challenges surrounding them.  They’re response to those challenges?  Books.  Six THOUSAND books.  They checked in with their community and the community need for them is books.   The fact there are needs seems to be a universal, and the church, when being church, responding to those needs is universal also.

Which is kind of an apostolic thing, really.  Rooted in the teachings of the apostles we are sent into the world to share good news.  Referring back to the earlier comment, we don’t get to come to the building once a week and call it good.  We are apostolic people, we are a people sent into the world to teach what the apostles taught.  And the apostles teach us what Jesus taught them.  Love God and your neighbor and then feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner and heal the sick.

One, holy, catholic, and apostolic.  Church.  That sounds like a church I could get behind.  How about you?

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