Renew, rebuild, revive

Is it really possible to renew or renovate? Can you really ever make something old new again? Once it has worn out and you replace some pieces, it isn’t exactly like it was. It is a little different. The wood is a different kind. The handling is a little different. It may be “like new” but it can never truly be the same, down to the core.

When people try to reform a movement they are trying to renew it. They are trying to bring it back to what it was at the beginning. Their intentions are good, but they don’t realize it isn’t really possible. Things have changed. The times have changed. The reason for the movement that started it all off has gotten lost or forgotten.

We can’t really renew the church. We can try to reform it. We can try to rebuild it. We can try to take all the bits that work and piece them together like a jigsaw puzzle. We can take it all down and start again from scratch. Or we can muddle on like we are and try to reform it from the inside.

But one way or another, something has got to change. Too many people look at Christians like they are crazy, and with good reason. Too many Christians are filled with hate instead of love. Too many Christians think their obligation to God is filled if they sit in a pew on Sunday and then do nothing else the rest of the week.

What is the best way forward? Is it to go into the past and read the Gospels in the original Aramaic? Is it to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

I write this not to attack the church, but to awaken it. I want this to work. I believe in Jesus. I believe in the work that he started and I believe that it can be brought to fruition. I believe that love can save the world.

This church, this Body of Christ, is one big dysfunctional family. It is going to be hard for some people to hear these words. Folks hate the idea that their family is broken. But pointing out that it is broken is the beginning of healing.

This is like being in recovery. When a person starts on the path of recovery, she often loses friends. Her best friends were her drinking buddies. When they see her getting sober and still enjoying life, they tend to get hateful. They rarely decide to follow her on the path. They’d rather stick with what they know, even if it is destructive and misguided, than go with something new.

So this isn’t renewal. It is revival. It is new life that I’m proposing. But to have a revival and then continue to do the same old thing won’t work. We’ve added too much to this thing we call church. The extra stuff gets in the way and slows us down. It doesn’t go where it should. We need to strip it clean.

The Lord’s Supper should be an actual meal and it needs to be shared with people who aren’t members. It needs to be shared not with the goal of making them become members. It needs to be shared because people need to be fed. There need to be no restrictions on who gets to eat.

We need to take out all the ritual and the magic show. We need to remove the hierarchy to show that everybody is equal. Everybody needs to be trained to be ministers. All of us have talents that are needed.

I remember a time that I was playing a game of volleyball with the Episcopal student group when I was in college. The priest was there with his son. His son was young and wanted to play, but because he was small his dad thought that he would get hurt, possibly by being tripped over. His son was very upset by this. I saw that he was very good at serving the ball – and I know that I’m terrible at it. I modified the game and made him the server. I explained that his Dad didn’t want him to play only because he was concerned about him getting hurt. This way he got to help out the game and not be in the way. Everybody was happy.

This is part of what we need to do. We need to look at what is essential, and change things. We need to make this work. We need to include everybody.

I’d hate to think Jesus died in vain.

TMJ as a teacher.

I have TMJ problems. My jaw doesn’t line up properly. Overuse, and the ligaments in my neck hurt. The more I talk, the more pain I’m in. It isn’t a large pain. It isn’t terrible. But it is just annoying enough to keep me mindful.

I’ve become very conscious of everything I say. It is as if I have a bank account and I’m being careful of what I spend. Each sentence needs to be worthwhile.

I remember when a teacher in junior high had an assignment that we had to come up with a list of just twenty words. These were (hypothetically) the only words we would be allowed to say for the rest of our lives. This is something like that.

If it hurts to talk a lot, then you have to pick your words carefully or suffer the consequences. What do you have to say? What can be dropped?

This is totally in line with the Buddhist idea of right speech. Every word you say needs to be true, kind, and helpful. Is it necessary? Is it useful? Or is it mindless chatter, meant to fill up the silence? Is it gossip?

There is a great saying that “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.” (Maurice Switzer)

There is a Ghandi quote as well that I’ve also heard attributed to the Quakers. “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”

We are afraid of silence. We fill our houses and our heads with noise. We have iPods and cell phones attached to our ears constantly. Every store has music playing. The TV blaring on, all the time. When was the last time you were silent for longer than 20 minutes, and not asleep?

This disorder has become my teacher.