Loving and Hating the Church, Part 1, November 3, 2017
Loving and Hating the Church, Part 1
Rev. Yme Woensdregt
I have a love/hate relationship with the church. This week, let me share why I love the church as I do. Next week … the shadow side.
Throughout history, the church has helped people discover a more loving, gracious way of being. In spite of its participation in some of the worst practices of society (more about that in a moment), it is undeniable that the church has nurtured individuals and groups of people to live in healthy and loving ways.
Although many in the church supported the slave trade, William Wilberforce’s Christian faith motivated him to work towards abolishing the slave trade in 1807 in Great Britain.
William and Catherine Booth were moved by their faith to do something about the extreme poverty they saw in London in the mid-1800’s.
The Iona Community, an ecumenical Christian community founded in 1938 by the late George MacLeod, is committed to seeking new ways of living the Gospel in today’s world. Originally inspired in the poorest areas of Glasgow during the Depression, the community’s focus now is on ‘rebuilding the common life’, bringing together work and worship, prayer and politics, the sacred and the secular.
The Taizé Community in central France is an ecumenical community of brothers who are committed to living simply in community, and who are dedicated to the hard work of reconciliation. Thousands of young people make a pilgrimage to Taize each summer for a week of prayer and reflection.
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was an ordinary young woman in Albania who understood from a very early age that God was calling her to spread the love of Christ to all people. Millions now revere her as Mother Teresa, and as Saint Teresa of Calcutta since September 2016.
Jean Vanier, son of a Canadian Governor–General, was moved by his faith to found a community where people with developmental disabilities live with those who assist them. The first L’Arche community started in northwestern France, and have since spread to 130 countries around the world.
During World War 2, Pastor Andre Trocme encouraged the citizens of his small town in south–central France to hide Jews from the Nazis. At great risk to their own lives, these ordinary men and women were convinced that this was the right thing to do.
Very early in the life of the church, the theologian Tertullian quoted his contemporaries who said, “See how these Christians love one another, and how ready they are to die for each other.” At the same time, early Christians gained a reputation for taking care of the sick, of widows and orphans, when others ignored them and left them to die in the streets.
Throughout my life, I have met men and women and children who, on the basis of nothing more than their trust in Jesus Christ reached out to make the lives of others better. They have given generously of their time and energy and money to make the lives of their neighbours more whole. They have reached out in love and compassion to alleviate the suffering and the burdens carried by other people.
I could go on and on about people who have changed the world for the better on the basis of their faith. Some of them are well known to us. Others are anonymous, men and women who trusted God and on the basis of their faith made a difference for good in the world.
That’s why I love the church as I do. Through the church, God has nurtured me and formed me to be someone who cares about this world, who tries to love other people, to be tolerant of other ways and beliefs, and to be humble about the extent of what I know of the truth.
That’s not to say that the church is perfect. It certainly isn’t. After all, it is made up of people like me, who fail, who screw up, who are seduced by the wiles of greed and influence.
I’ll have more to say about that next week.