I was reading Peter Cammarano’s blog page the other day (he’s a UM pastor from Texas), and he reminded his readers of that old, lovable curmudgeon of a theologian, Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University’s Divinity School.
I had breakfast with Professor Hauerwas once; he is as Peter described him: a gruff and abrasive person who has a heart for the church. Hauerwas grew up blue collar and of moral and ethical parents. He’s a radical: staunchly against abortion, yet an avowed pacifist. He knows he’s in the minority… and he knows that Jesus was, too. He has passed this attitude down to his students.
He has also passed down the love and necessity of the Church. He correctly describes the most accurate image of friendship and worship in this world: the two sacraments of the church, Eucharist and Baptism. In Eucharist the church habitually longs for the return of God, and reminds themselves of hospitality, friendship and love. Baptism incorporates our life and Christ’s life as one. A quote he frequently gives is this one derived from early church fathers Origen and Cyprian, and goes something like, “You cannot have God as father unless you take the Church as your mother.”
So much for being able to worship God just fine in a deer stand or a bass boat!
Community life is so much at the heart of Christianity. Yet fostering community seems to get harder and harder. People don’t want to reach out. We’re suspicious of those we don’t know. We’re scared of new leadership, or training others to take our place. The problem with that is that the Church is always one generation away from dying. If it is of Christ, it will of course flourish. But if it is of our own making… I shudder to think about it.
The Church isn’t ours; it is God’s. Without discipleship and servanthood, church membership is nothing more than being a member of a religious country club. If God is our Father, and the Church is our Mother, it may be that we might best see ourselves as children in the family of God – children who are loved, children in need of direction, children who will grow and learn the rest of their lives, and children who will share what they have learned and experienced with others.
Do we dare sit on our hands and let down both our Father and our Mother? Should we at the very least practice hospitality so that the Kingdom might increase?