Chapter VII – Engaging The Church
A Rule of Life
The Reverend Canon Charles LaFond
Please, may I remember that I am part of The Church. What that means changes from time to time. Sometimes I love being part of it. Other times I want to run away screaming. And if “The Church” is Christ’s wounded, diseased body then, what I see of “The Church” and “the churches” of “The Church” makes sense.
It is hard to be reminded – though be reminded, I must – that Jesus was neither a monk nor a prophet. Jesus was a Zealot. Jesus was a man involved in insurrection for God and God’s people, and against Rome. Jesus walked a lot- in dust. Jesus met and engaged in conversation with rejected, outcast people. Jesus prayed. Jesus gently walked into a storm, knowing He was doing so and pretty sure how it would end. And not sure. And Jesus was very clear that he was modeling behavior for the church – for me in the church. God, please let me the follow that kind of Savior! Please send people into my life who share courage with me for a new, molting church.
This Rule of Life needs to remind me, as I fall on this chapter monthly, that I am not part of an institution designed for passive and pretty experiences on Sunday mornings. As a member of “The Church” is am a revolutionary and I must imagine how to best be a member of a Church and a denomination (The Episcopal Church) so that I keep “the main thing” the main thing. And the main thing is how we love each other, how we love God and how we love God when God shows up as the financially poor, the marginalized and God.
As a priest of the church, I am aware there are blurred boundaries between my religion, my spiritual practice and my job. But I also know that as a priest, I need to join the prophets, the zealots and the revolutionaries if I am to be faithful to Christ and His mission. “Church” is not, and cannot be, only a soothing, charming experience. Church is not a concert, though there may be beauty. Church is not a Fine Arts Membership Club though I will invest in music and liturgy. The Church is not a group of like-minded people, though we may tend to agree on Jesus’ divinity, there will be millions of interpretations. Church is not a spiritual spa for the rich – it is a workhouse for the rich and a spa for the financially poor, the emotionally sick, the relationally hungry and many marginalized.
Church is a place and a time and an experience for questions, not answers. Church is a place to experience the heavy glory of God and to do so with others. Church is a boot camp for the fight against tyrannies of time, money and power. Church is a base camp for an ascent – a hard hike to the top of a transfiguring mountain on which we are changed. And if not, then it is a museum or a club or a gated-community in which pretty people feel that by attending its liturgy, they have checked the “I am a good person box” on their weekly life-to-do list. And if it is that, then Jesus will be outside, on the grass, unwelcome. And if so, may I be there with Him.
May “The Episcopal Church” be a place of TRUTH for me -lead where it will and cost what it may. And may I, to the best of my ability, continue daily, to make the choice to give my life to it; for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us unite.