Friday, January 09, 2009

Seminary Reflections: An Image of the Church

Apologies for posting a bit late in the day, but I wanted to write this seminary reflections piece after my class this morning. It’s a class of all seniors, and together with three professors we’re attempting to integrate our seminary experience up to now, our knowledge of the church, and our hopes for a resilient future in ministry.

Today’s activity called us all to bring in an object that represented our view of the church today. Some of us thought of the PC(USA), some of us thought wider, others about their own denominations. I admit, going in, I thought the activity was a bit elementary and cliche, but at the end of the morning I walked away with my mind changed. It was fascinating --and moving-- to hear my colleagues’ various descriptions of the church. Here’s a few...

The church as an old barn. People love the barn, it served a great purpose in its day, and it’s still wonderful to look at. You can throw great nostalgic parties in it and people have a fantastic time together, but if it rains, well, the roof leaks a bit. And it’s not very fitting for today’s farm needs. And the trouble with old barns is, they keep getting even older and it’s hard to know when to fix them, or whether to just knock them down, whether a tent might work better, or whether you just need a bigger better barn.

The church as an NCAA basketball March Madness bracket. At the beginning of March Madness everybody picks who they think will win, how they are sure the future will ensue. But, almost never, does anyone completely pick correctly. In fact, once folks get to the final four it’s pretty rare that they even have two teams correctly chosen. We can’t see the future, and when we think we do, we’re usually wrong. Maybe the church is like that. We think we’ve got it all figured out, that our bracket is picture perfect, then God comes along and reminds us what we’ve got is all wrong, shows us the true way forward. And our entire bracket, or worldview, changes.

The church as a double dog leash. When you walk two dogs on two leashes that are connected, one dog may veer off to the right, and another to the left, and you may want to go a completely different direction. You may have to follow one dog, or the alpha dog may drag you to a place you’ve never been before, but is really great. When the dogs are pulling different ways it may seem as if they’re at odds, but they’re really trying, in their own way, to discern what’s best. Maybe we’re just like dogs smelling our ways forward, and would do well to stop and remember who is leading us.

The church as a hip flask. Acts 2, the story of Pentecost, tells how the early disciples got taken as drunks because they were so consumed by the Spirit. It’s good to be drunk on God, but sometimes, often perhaps, we in the church get drunk on other things: the way things were, money or power, buildings or prestige. Instead of gathering at the Lord’s table and sharing the wine with the community of saints, we’re drinking the cheap liquor of our own ways not God’s. It’s fine to drink, to get drunk on the Spirit, but we need wisdom to discern our tastes are true and good.

And there were many more. Legos. Phones. Shells. Tool boxes. Olive trees. Sure, these are playful exercises and we all know every image is incomplete, flawed, and broken. But I found it quite fun, and perhaps telling, to consider.

So if you could choose an image to describe the church today, what would you choose?


Len said...

The Church as a loaf of bread. Bread does not bake itself, nor is it made for itself. Bread is intended to nourish those who partake of it. If not offered, bread becomes moldy and repulsive to eat. The intention as nourishment is lost, as well as, its potential to be offered. So we, the Church, have been made by God for service to the world. Our discipleship within the Church today needs to prepare us for our apostleship - to be those sent out following the steps of Christ into the world. Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life; therefore, since we are the Body of Christ we too are to be broken apart, as those of one loaf, to be given for the nourishment of the world.

Sarahlynn said...

Neat exercise.

Church as book? Can teach us so much, be helpful, guide us on our journeys, do good in the world. Can also get in the way, be deeply flawed or used as a bludgeon, etc.