One of the funniest yet sad lines I remember from working as a faculty member of Duke Divinity School is this statement by a United Methodist Church Bishop: "After Jesus Christ comes back in glory, after the rapture, the United Methodist Church will still be standing."
That seems to about say it all.
The institutional church simply gets in the way of the Spirit of God, in which the Spirit must find other avenues to let that love express itself boldly yet with calm reassurance.
Donald Miller in his book, Blue Like Jazz: Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, writes passionately about the love of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit that, weirdly enough, is able to transcend, ascend, descend--I mean get around--all the obstacles and conditions we put on the love of God. For example, being a man who is gay who has, in the past week, heard myself referred to as "an abomination" and "deviant" because I am a man who is gay. The name-calling that goes on in the name of Jesus is just not helpful to creating a dialogue, in which we can all find the love of God, which is, after all, what we depend upon as "our daily bread."
Miller writes this:
''I felt, once again, that there was this underlying hostility for homosexuals and Democrats and, well, hippie types. I cannot tell you how much I did not want liberal or gay people to be my enemies. I liked them,'' he wrote. ''The real issue in the Christian community was that (love) was conditional ... You were loved in word, but there was, without question, a social commodity that was being withheld from you until you shaped up.''
I am stumped, as one who has exhorted classes of students at Duke Divinity School and many congregations, that we can only know of God, Jesus, and the Spirit through and in the community of Christ. While we may be part of a community or culture of believers who teach us of the presence of God, we also need to be constantly reminded of what Jesus said: that the Spirit of God will blow wherever the Spirit of God wills. Sometimes it is in the institutional church, and sometimes it is simply in relationships that happen "wherever two or three are gathered in Jesus' name," in which, there we are, being "church" with one another.
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