My buddy Marty had some interesting things to say about the ways we sometimes just cruise on autopilot. He started off wondering whether his interest in the show “24” was because it’s a good show or simply because he’s in the habbit of watching it. From there, he contemplated the things we do in the church: do we just do these out of habbit as well? (Hopefully, if we’re nuns, we do them in our habbits. But that’s a whole nother deal.)
The fact that he used the words “Death” in the title of his post got me to thinking. So often we hear that word. Death. With such despair. Even when it’s used metaphorically. “My church is dying.” People might say with such a sense of loss.
This sense of loss is completely understandable. It’s quite human. But I think that we can do better than it.
We’re called to die to ourselves. We’re told that our sins are crucified with Christ. In baptism, we’re lowered into death with him, and we’re raised out of this death into etetnal life.
It’s accurate and appropriate to understand this all individualistically. As individuals we should die to ourselves. Our individual sins are crucified with Christ. Individually, we are given eternal life through Him.
But I think there’s some truth in the idea that these might be experienced collectively. Collectively, we– the church– should die to ourselves. Collectively we– the church– ought to have our sins crucified with Christ. Collectively we– the church– his bride, and his body, will live eternally.
But we have to die first. As individuals. And I would suggest that we have to die collectively.
It is natural for for us to fear the death of our individual churches. It is understandable that we might mourn their deaths. But the church must die in order to be reserructed.
Exactly what does this look like? I think that the church dies and is reseructed in two very different senses, just as the individual dies and is reseructed in two very different senses.
In one sense, I died already and was reborn already. In one sense, I left all my sins at the cross with Jesus.
And so, too, the church can die– here and now– so that it can leave all of its sins on the cross with Jesus. Churches who commit the sin of legalism, judgementalism, hypocrisy, and irrelevance. (I only hesitate a little bit to name “irrelevance” a sin of the church. But with news as important as the news of Jesus, how could it not be a sin to squander and hoard it?)
The church will be retempted with all those old sins and a handful of new ones. Just as I will. And so I must die many times to myself in this world. And so must the church.
But a day is coming. A day when I will be who I was meant to me. A day when I am in communion with Him, and all my sins, they will be left behind forever.
And so too, when Jesus is back among us, the church will leave behind all of it’s sins, forever. He will take up leadership in the flesh: not just through us, anymore, but with us, in some whole new way.