Saturday, February 26, 2022

What we need. . .

So often the Church presumes that the problem in keeping people is the development of friendship ties to cement the place of people within the community of the Church.  There is some truth to this, of course, but friendship is not simply the goal.  What fellowship is lacking is nothing less than the true camaraderie of a people whose community is more than friendship but a common identity.

It is a good thing when the people of God share common interests.  It is a good thing when our primary friendships are forged from the community of faith.  But the Church will not be saved by common interest or even the affection of friendship.  Our association is not random or accidental or based upon choice.  Our association is born of the baptismal water that has given us new and everlasting life.  Our common life is rooted and planted in the soil of worship where God comes to us in words that accomplish His purpose and in bread and wine that are His flesh and blood.  It is not shared leisure or recreation or friendship that lead to our unity around the Word and Table of the Lord.  It is our unity around the Word and Table of the Lord that lead us to friendship.

Youth work has degenerated into a pale imitation of the places and ways to entertain ourselves.  Instead of engaging youth with the nobler identity and task of their baptismal vocation, we have distracted them with games.  How can this lead them to know and appreciated the seriousness of their baptismal identity as children of God or their place before Him on the holy ground of liturgy and worship?  But a knowledge of self flowing from the font and manifest in their life together around His Word and Table will certainly lead to friendship.

The same is true of the way we deal with men's or women's groups.  We presume that common interest will lead to the deeper association of their lives together around His Word and Table but it is and must be the other way around.  Having known and enjoyed our common life as the children of God by baptism and faith, realized in our life together around His Word and Table, we will naturally seek out and foster social relationships, common interests, and the pursuit of friendship.  That is how it works and not the other way around.

I fear that too many of our groups are simply interest groups that are just like the ones in the world, copy cat programs that seek to find friendship almost exclusively in interest, preference, and leisure.  The world is not our teacher and its aims cannot be renovated into a cohesive program of fellowship.  It is and must the opposite.  From our life together around His Word and Table will flow the ordinary interactions that people have but, again, this is not our chief aim.  Our most important goal and purpose is known and lived out in our association as the baptized people of God, confessing our faith, and living by the food of God's Word and Table.

Instead we have been content to add a thin veneer of religiosity to what are largely secular processes and ends.  A group begins with a spoken prayer before it proceeds to other endeavors and this is what makes it churchly.  Prayer ought to infuse everything we are and do and not simply be a perfunctory ritual.  Worship should not be the occasional activity of such fellowship groups but their primary identity and activity -- that from which everything else flows.

We should not be satisfied with less or other avenues of community but pursue with an even greater vigor and enthusiasm the fullest dimensions of our life together in the heavenly liturgy rehearsed here in time.  This is our koinonia and this is our primary association and fellowship.  This will forge for men a place for them to grow as men -- not the imagined masculinity of the world but the true masculinity that flows out of our heavenly Father's heart and follows the example of His Son, our Savior.  This will establish and further the growth of women as women -- not in competition with men or dominated by them but in the holy submission of love given shape by Blessed Mary's own submission to the will of God that ennobled her from generation to generation.  This will provide a place where children are truly nurtured in faith and righteousness, learning to love the Word of the Lord and to delight in His house -- the very kind of family into which our heavenly Father entrusted His only Son and marked by the examples of godliness in Mary and Joseph.  These ought to be the greater goals of our life together as the Church and offer to the baptized the blessed unity of a life together that is both now and eternal.

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

The veneer should be the common interests, covering the deep piety and conviction of our Confession. It is all too easy for me to be satisfied with common interests, and never speak to those who share them about the core of Truth. If we made a greater effort to do this, it might open our hearts to those in the Church who differ on non-doctrinal issues. Some of what we see in debates about vaccinated/unvaccinated (or any number of other political matters) might be alleviated. When we go to the altar rail to receive Christ’s Body and Blood, we are one. Realizing this might make us a little more calm being with those who disagree with our views on climate change, etc.