Peter and the Church
Joseph F. Girzone’s “Joshua: A Parable for Today” is the storyof woodcarver who moves to a small cabin on the edge of a small town. The local people wonder about this man who supports himself by carpentry and woodworking and yet his work is exquisite. As an artisan, his carvings inspire and even haunt those who view them. He enjoys community and people and makes effort to meet as many people as possible by attending church services of different denominations and synagogue gatherings. He becomes verbal about his observations about how the people are separated in their faithfulness to God and questions the role of the Church in this community. And for this, church and community leaders question him and even as he makes his way to see the Holy Father in Rome inexplicable stories emerge causing those who know Joshua to question whether they really know him at all.
Girzone’s parable is a delightful reading yet it also challenges the faithful believer to wonder what God is doing in our churches and should we even suggest what the purpose of our churches are today and whether it is important to keep the established church as status quo.
But what is the status quo for Christianity? Depending upon the era of church history in which you were raised, and even today one might wonder what the purpose of the church might be other than to maintain the building. Yet this is not what Jesus taught.
The church is a place where relationships are formed, strengthened and in turn where disciples of Christ grow in faith and to trust in God.
But do we modern day Christians believe this? What exactly are we really saying and thinking about the purpose of the church and is it the same as it was even five years ago? Is what we do within the walls of the church relevant to people who still come? What entices people to return? People return because there is a relationship that grows with Christ but only if there is a willingness for this to happen.
How willing are you to have a relationship with God? And is this worth your time to share and spend with others who think similarly?
We will explore these ideas as we look at Diana Butler-Bass’ “Christianity After Religion- The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening”. Butler-Bass has completed extensive research and looked at statistics for churches across denominational lines finding trends about who is and not attending church and why. And it is these why responses which might cause us to wonder if what we do in church is based on relationships with God, other people or the maintenance of a building for our comfort and care.
The question to ask is simply, What was Jesus thinking as he told Peter, “on this rock I will build the church and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” What is the church today and how do we define and redefine it?
Loving Christ you told Peter that it was upon him as the Rock that you would establish the church. As we see many older church buildings closing for many reasons, we pray for a renewed vision of what church may be. Help us to understand how to live and grow in community which is established in understanding of Christ’s love. Enable us to know what this vision is and may be through faith. Amen.
Diana Butler-Bass Christianity after Religion: the end of church and the birth of a new spiritual awakening. .New York Harper2012