There is so much good to say about the church. Through the years I have published articles, written sermons, and publicly and passionately advocated for churches. Goodness, to be really candid, for the last thirty or so years I have made my living working for churches.
But there is an inconvenient truth: sometimes, perhaps much of the time, church and church members can be difficult. Sometimes church and church members can be painful. One person commented recently that she could never seem to fit into any of the observable cliques that she saw in the churches she visited. She knew there was good there, but could never seem to be included in that good.
I get it, I really do.
Deep in our humanity is the need to find community. We live not in isolation, but in relationships. Communities, however, can quickly become closed groups. In a provincial sense of the word, communities can become cliques. This is when communities get twisted, mutated, and fearful. Maybe we do not mean to be, but it easier to turn our backs on others, because we are more comfortable with the familiar.
In my neighborhood live several families from Turkey. The old grandfather, hobbled by age and arthritis, speaks very little English. When I am out walking my dog, he will give me a small, toothless smile, while clutching his cane in one hand and his rosary beads in another. His children are much more comfortable with the language, although they still struggle for the right words when we exchange brief pleasantries. Their children, however, “fit right in.” I assume they were born in this country and so things like language, dress, and sports – what can be called “culture” – helps them adjust in a way that their grandfather will never know. Of course if I were to move to Turkey my plight would be the same as his. I am glad they are finding a place and I am grateful to share a small part of that place with them.
There is an inconvenient truth that churches can be closed: close-minded; isolated; irrelevant; fearful; and exclusive. Here I am not simply talking about ethnic diversity, although that is not a bad place to start. I am talking about anyone who is “different” – economically; socially; emotionally; intellectually; politically…this list could go on and on.
We who go to church and practice church and believe in the church have a responsibility to confess where we have failed to be good neighbors of welcome and commit to practicing a higher truth.
Jesus opened his arms wide and said: “Come unto me all who are weary…” Weary is another word for tired. Many are tired of church, so we have work to do to be the living incarnation of the Body of Christ inviting a tired world to find rest, a place to go to, a people to belong to, and where there is always room at the table for one more.
May the inconvenient truth be transformed to The Truth, The Way, and The Life.