By Caroline N. Sharp
For as long as I can remember, I have always been repelled by extravagance.
I was never comfortable in the Roman Catholic churches I’ve attended growing up where mostly the church was adorned with all kinds of fancy stuff. This environment, to me, was a breeding ground for snobbery and judgement. I left the church for a good long while after that.
When I returned to church as an adult, I made another stop before I landed with the Anglican Church. This brief visit was with the Christian Reformed Church.
Despite having some good music and loads of interesting studies and events, I missed the weekly communion and, although they said so teasingly, hearing their motto “if you’re not Dutch, you’re not much” did not make me feel as welcome.
I ended up at the Anglican Church by chance when I met my husband a few years later.
One of the things that I love about the Anglican Church is the weekly communion.
However, there is high church and low church and everything in between. As a seminary student (and since), I have experienced each type and I feel somewhat like a connoisseur of church types. This is relevant to me now as I have moved and am “church shopping” again.
One thing that I have witnessed about the Anglican Church so far is that, for the most part, I almost feel like I’m back at that stuffy Roman Catholic Church, with all the pomp and flair, the white-privilege and, sadly, the snobbery and judgement.
I was once sucked in by this too when it was fun in seminary to try on all the robes, chasubles, copes, etc., lighting all the fancy candles and setting the table with all the fancy communion-wear, matching tapestries, etc. I would like to think I have a more balanced view of church today.
If Christ came to your church today, what do you think he might say?
Things that come to my mind are:
“I was a stranger and you did not invite me into your home” (Matt. 25:43)
“My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” (Matt. 21:13)
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (Jn. 15:12)
I think Jesus would feel a painful urge to preach to us about love and humbleness.
What does Jesus care about?
Jesus doesn’t care about all the ministries your church provides which stroke your egos more than anything. Jesus cares about how he is received!
Everyone should be received as though they were Christ. Have a parade, wave your palm fronds, and lay down your coats, sing with joy and excitement, invite him to dine with you (and not just for communion)!
With the downward direction of the church’s probable future, it astounds me that clergy and parishioners alike are not receiving every member, friend and stranger as though they were Christ.
I think, for the most part, that we are not humble enough. We are too wrapped up in the “business” of the church.
I most recently attended an Anglican church service close to my new home (you’re off the hook Huron - I’m no longer in the Diocese but still connected), and our experience at this one parish was quite typical. My husband and I were hardly greeted, we were not told anything about how to follow along with the service, the sermon was mostly about a meeting they were having after the service and because of that we didn’t want to join them for coffee (and the ironic part was that they were going to discuss their welcoming committee, so it was on their minds already).
Who would stay at a church that welcomed people this way? I’m quite sure Jesus would have told us to shake the dust from our sandals on our way out.
Whatever happened to this love that Jesus commanded us to have for everyone? What challenges do we face today that prevent us from showing this love to not only those who walk through our church doors but those who live in our communities and the people we meet while living our daily lives? Do others know we are Christian by our individual actions? What prevents us from sharing the love and grace and mercy that Christ shows us with those who surround us? When was the last time you invited a friend or neighbour to your church?
No, we are not humble enough. Not until we see the face of Christ in every person we meet. Not until we can show love to all who cross our paths. Not until we go that extra mile to make someone new feel like family. We don’t need fancy stuff to make this happen.
We don’t even need a church building to make this happen! We are all one through Christ who is love. Love is within our inner being, we need only find that still small voice to show us the way.