What are we begging to go back to?
I think the church might be dying. I know. It makes me sad too. It freaks me out a little. I mean, here I am working to be ordained and wondering what the church might look like. I wonder if I am not banging on the doors of a building being condemned, asking to help captain a ship that will never sale again. I think a lot about the future of the church. Worry isn’t the right word, but dream about isn’t it either. It is mostly a wonder on my best days.
Two weeks ago I was preaching in Mark, when the disciples get told plain as day what will happen to Jesus. The text says they are too afraid to ask questions. I can relate to that. I hate asking questions I think I might know the answer to. I think the church has been not asking these questions for a long time. Instead, the disciples begin arguing with each other about who is the greatest. When we are afraid of where we might be going, isn’t that when we begin arguing about the pecking order. Uncertainty has a way of bring out the worst in us. I am praying that isn’t the way the church will behave, but if I look around for a second I see the ways the disciples of Jesus have not changed. Jesus is inviting us to lose our lives and we are bickering about who is on top. Sometimes I wonder if God isn’t tired of all this, of all our humanity.
This past Sunday was another text that highlighted the humanity of us all. The Israelites shouting to Moses about the good old days. The good old days were in Egypt when they were slaves sure, but at least they had more to eat than manna. The fish is really the only bit they can remember. I wonder if we aren’t the same. I have pastored two churches now that long for the good old days, the ones where people were in the pews and how they were gonna pay the preacher was not a matter of concern. I get it, I do, and I also often wonder what we aren’t remembering. Was it really that good? Or are we simply forgetting the parts we want to. Maybe it’s both.
In both of these stories God hears what the complaints are. In the Old Testament God hears Moses out and invites a host of new people to also hear from God. In the New, Jesus asks the disciples to become like children, to welcome the constant questioning kiddos in the midst of their own fear.
I too am learning to ask better questions. I work at a bar where everyone genuinely likes each other. It is lovely to the point of absurd. Am I supposed to like coming to work this much? I don’t know, but I do. I like work that much. It isn’t just me. Someone we have managed to create a space where people feel comfortable, like they can rest. I don’t know if this is the right quetion, but the question I have been asking myself is this: When was the last time church felt like that? I wonder if why are people leaving isn’t the wrong question. I am wondering where do they want to be is a better question.