Sunday Morning Musings: An insert recently available for inclusion into Sunday worship programs builds on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s actions of posting his 95 thesis on the chapel door in Wittenberg, Germany. To my understanding the actions of Luther were done in that he wanted to begin discussion about “reforming” the Roman Catholic Church (Luther had been a monk/priest at the time). The insert to which I refer asks the question of us as to how we might want to see reform happening in the church today.
As with many today, I too struggle with this idea of change that is necessary within or around the institution. Now, as then, some will wonder what is wrong with the church that it would need or want reforms. Others may have given up on the idea of church altogether and feel as if any attempts at change are not worth the effort. Others still feel the need for the church to become more relevant, not so out-dated. Some of the arguments that have been around since the birth of the church itself are still not settled in the 21st century (divorce, abortion, equality of genders, the gender issue itself to name but a few).
So what changes will make any difference? Many of the church buildings still have fixed seating (pews) in the sanctuary. Some congregations have replaced organs with keyboards and may or may not include a whole “modern” band with drums and guitars and other various instruments. Some congregations choose multi-use buildings that put the chairs away so various sports can be played during the week. New sound systems are employed. Old buildings have to be brought up to “code” and so elevators or lifts are installed. With so many options it can become very mind boggling.
Nevertheless, I have given some thought to what I might try to change. Likely, the first change I would like to make (that which was lost due to the reformation movement 500 years ago), is that of the further developing of the “inner self”. Even though there is much talk about the importance of self in today’s world, we have often neglected the spiritual side of things. Only recently, and still not as fully as possible, the spiritual work of meditation (some say, mindfulness), contemplation (if prayer is us speaking to God, contemplation is the listening part). I think that too often we have equated religion and spirituality and that is not to say there need not be some connection. But for the most part religion has become very legalistic (do what the Bible says) as if the Bible is a rule book rather than a book full of stories, history, teachings and so that can reveal a loving relationship with a non-theistic God. Too often the Bible is simply held up as “the” Word of God. I am pretty sure that there are other ways to hear that Word.
I would hope that another change for the church would be around the whole idea of “charity” (a word used in the King James Version of the Bible for love). Too often either our charity (generous self-giving) is to make us feel better (there I have done something kind) and as a tax break; and sometimes the donation doesn’t really benefit the recipient. To me, a real gift makes a real and lasting difference in the life of the one who receives.
My reforms would see a church that is accepting and inclusive. It would put hospitality as a major effort. There would be no hidden agendas, especially around the love that is called God. I guess I want too much, but am open to working with anyone who will join with me in trying to live a life of love.