In the absence of the Northern Tier Convocation Series this year that featured dinner, Evensong, and a Sermon, I would invite you to a Rector’s Forum on Wednesday, March 7th at 7 PM. Our topic for consideration: the nature of the Church.
Huge are the expectations, often hugely unrealistic, that form our culture’s baggage about church. And, in fact, the trend of culture and society seems to be fairly intolerant and hostile towards the church, as though it were one of the many institutions of the contemporary age that cannot be trusted. So, people may talk about how some aspect of the church has caused them great harm; others may tell about how they became bored to tears; yet others how they became burned out in offering service to the church.
Yet, have you noticed how there seems to be a certain wonder and curiosity about what the Church might have to say about several topics of contemporary society even from those who say they are most removed from the church? Do you find it a troubling assumption on the part of many that what the church would have to say is based on the most conservative reading of scripture? Yet that is not always an accurate assumption. For, the ethics of Jesus often challenge the prevailing mindset—a thing forgotten by contemporary culture—that the compassion of Jesus frequently trumped the more narrowly construed demands of scripture. So, what I am interested in is this: what is redemptive about the nature of the church as we experience it? What is, or what ought to be the role of the church in contemporary culture?
Given the polarized climate of our contemporary political life, what do we suppose the ethics of Jesus (whose ministry was one of reconciliation) might have to say about the times in which we live?
Those questions have been around for a long time. Indeed, both the church and culture have struggled with that issue from the very beginning of a long line of controversies. It may come as a surprise that ours is not the first time to struggle with what it means to be a Christian in our evolving world and the challenges and the questions that arise.