For over a year and a half I have not really claimed any affiliation with any church (small 'c') although I remain on the roll at a local United Methodist church. My reasoning behind this was that it didn't make sense. The Bible says that our struggle is against the powers and principalities yet in the common church model there is a striving toward these same powers and principalities in the so-called leadership development, commitees, trustees, prayer teams, worship leaders, sheparding, etc. and basically a very worldly-looking organization and flow of power or authority that looks less like sacrificial love as much as it looks like upwardly-mobile christian ladder-climbing. I took part in it, got my pats on the back for awhile and found myself empty and desiring to 'spend' my life on what Jesus actually said to do rather than spending it on keeping the church itself growing in numbers, square footage, and acreage. The two ideas of 'being the church' somehow could not be married in my mind. I still am not convinced but my argument centered on how the early church looked nothing like the church of today. Sure there was in-fighting and disagreements but the world was smaller then and people 'had' to work things out, their very survival depended on it. What I see today is rather than people working it out there is so much room for so many you just switch ministries and off you are again, unscathed and unrepentant for one more broken relationship. If you can't get along with the trustees, maybe your 'gift' is finance, if the choir is too old-school maybe you're better suited to the praise team. Since the praise team already has its heirarchy and they don't want to rock the boat, you might want to start another one, can't have too many praise teams! If you can't do anything we'll teach you how to run the projector. We will plug you in and give you authority and there you will die. Die because leadership is servanthood, not control.
So how do I resolve what Greg Boyd has said about letting the church change as the context changes? I agree with him, Frank Viola & George Barna, in Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices don't have the authority to say church should remain a group of 12 or less people meeting in each others homes, there is not anything in the Bible or tradition that says that it should.
However, how do you do it? I mean, how do you insulate an organization from the control-mongers that are doing it for their own glory? How do you paint a maggot to look like Jesus? You don't. You can't. So who will lead us?
I was reading through some of my old stuff and since we're going to be butchering chickens soon (see, not processing, butchering, and its ugly and terrible but there is no other way, none, to get chicken on a plate).
I’m really stoked about what God might be doing. I don’t know how chickens play in that but I’ve been confronted with chicken messages 3 times in 10 hours so I know there has to be something to it. The first was at 1:00 a.m. this morning. I awoke (could have been dreaming of the Mayan blood-letting stuff I watched on “Digging for the Truth” on the History Channel) and wrote this poem down:
Soup Chicken Into the Darkness I reach As a breath forces cool life Into my chest My hand clutches the hot scaly claws Surrendered to my view On the block staring up at me As the axe falls through Sinking deep into the sweet-sticky sacrifice staring up at me A call uncried An October leaf carried in the light of autumn fresh A body, yet to give in to death, as it flops through the world A soup chicken to be soup
I know its morbid. So is the process of giving up myself. Sometimes we forget that the richness of a life in Christ isn’t as easy as opening a can of soup. Something has to die. Something has to be cleaned.
For weeks I've been resolved and NOW standing here bent over these pickles, yards from the back door of HIS house, feet caked in mud, ankles, hands, and forearms itching, back aching, green slime tatooed up to my wrists, loathing the day I met him and you whisper "How can you love him?". Well I'll tell you what the hell it isn't! It isn't butchering his half of the chickens! It isn't feeding that son of a *%&%)#@ one single calorie! It isn't going out of my way to not be offensive to him even though I know he is being cold as ice to five and six year old kids and my wife who never did or said anything to remotely offend him. It isn't not kicking his sorry ass for all the work we've done together and then having him trip out and dump it all like it just doesn't exist anymore? What? It is? Its all that? Its all that and more? For what? What do I get out of it?
A cross? I get a friggin cross? Oh yeah, and those sunsets. Mmm Hmmm, there have been some lovely ones. I get a pulse? One more day to wake up to my beautiful wife? Okay, deal. I'm in. I'll clean the friggin chickens, all of them, and I know you, you'll probably bring me to tears while I do it and somehow, through the gore and the mess, you'll show me something beautiful and profound and I'll go about crying your name and dancing like a child in a sprinkler or some other totally uncool thing with chicken guts all over me. Somehow I'm really glad to have met him...and you.
11 years and it seems like about half that. Today was our anniversary! I woke up to prickled flesh snuggling away from the 50 degree Michigan morning pouring through our open window. Lazily I reached behind me and felt every reachable inch of my beloved wife before a child's size 10 1/2 foot wiggled away from my touch. Ahhh another spooky dream of Calvin's. He's going through a stage but he's such an accomplished snuggler there is no way you can turn him away or lead him back to his own bed when he stands next to the bed and describes his biggest fear of the moment, in vivid technicolor, surroundsound, and special effects like sword sshwooshes and things dropping to the ground, saliva dripping, and thumps of feet outside his window.
Before the clock on my nightstand registers another ten minutes we are joined by two more imps, Coleman, who chews Calvin out for leaving him alone in bed and forces himself between me and my beloved, and Elizabeth who just has to be on Daddy's side, settles for what is left of the bed and ends up with no covers. I knew we weren't getting anymore sleep so I grabbed my mp3 player on the nightstand and played some of my wife's favorites as we lazily wrestled with the little ones and sent them to check on this or that while we resumed our snuggle. I'm thinking it doesn't get better than this until later in the day we picked our first 5 rows of sweet corn. Three and a half bushel! I picked up a fillet of wild-caught Alaskan Salmon ($7.32), a box of Leslie's favorite Taquitos($5.89), Leslie made some fresh salsa verde from the peppers, tomatillos, and herbs we picked out of our garden and along with just a big kettle full of sweet corn and we ate our fill. Sydney gave us the scrapbook she made with the three little ones and how rich, just how friggin rich does a man have to be? Maybe its the double shot of B-complex from the brewers yeast at the bottom of the beer I just drank or maybe its the omega-3 from that Salmon but it sure looks alot like heaven in the Clark household tonight. Now I just heard my beloved get out of the shower so I'm signing off. Sorry for the details but someday I pray my kids can read this and actually know that with a little passion and much joy - the Kingdom of God will come crashing into our midst.
You know what is ironic after I reread this post? I took John, a homeless guy that visits us one weekend a month, back to the shelter tonight and he chewed me out for not doing something more with my wife on our anniversary! He was married 2 1/2 yrs. of his whole 50 years and he was giving me advice! I'd really like to write a book about his life sometime. I might
I long thought that the words above were the assurance of Christ's victory over a sinful world and yes the evil will get what's coming to them! Drinking from the spring of Grace and the fount of Mercy changes these words for me. The "other" doesn't seem so "other", my enemies remind me of myself, beauty found in wrinkles and age spots, richness found in a hobo's cabin - barest of necessities allowing him a freedom I could only dream of.....The Kingdom of God not looking terribly different than what pours out of the soul of a young woman committing her life to loving others in cockroach-infested, dangerous places. Every knee WILL bow, and Every toungue WILL confess but not under the gleaming sword of the oppressor of the world but in the wide open arms of the light of simple peace, simple love, simple words, and an equilibrium restored.