St. Francis saw this cross in the church of San Damiano and heard it say “Rebuild my church”. He then did literally that – stone by stone he repaired a falling down church near his home.
But what if it is more than that – not a building, but the idea? Remember Jesus said “Upon this rock I will build my church” and renamed Simon to Peter, which means “rock”.
The church is a group of people, not a place.
Saint Peter was never ordained, neither was Saint Francis of Assisi. The title of Saint was given long after they died as honorifics, as descriptors of their goodness and adherence to the Way.
Remember, Jesus never ordained anyone, never built a church out of stones. “Church” is meant to be a collection of people working towards a common goal, not a collection of cinderblocks.
The Church Jesus intended is one that is living, dynamic, real, present. It makes a difference in the world by helping people. Remember his final exhortations to Peter, his rock. Feed my sheep. Tend my sheep. He tells him three times to counter the three times that Peter denied him.
The church has nothing to do with actions or behaviors. Whether women cover their hair or wear modest clothing or not is incidental. Who people make love to or not is incidental.
Remember Jesus repeatedly quoted the prophet Hosea saying “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”. God wants our loving service not the incidentals. God would rather have nudists who run a soup kitchen then people who cover their bodies from head to toe and all they do is meet once a week to “have church” by praising God together.
God doesn’t want our prayers and our songs. God wants us to feed his sheep, to heal them. God wants our actions more than our praise. Our best form of praise is to serve God by serving our neighbors. Not by judging them or by pointing out how they are not serving God in the way we think they should.
We cannot be codependent Christians, constantly finding fault. We must find and bring joy wherever we go. Who is hungry? Feed them. Who is in prison? Visit them. Work for justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God.
This is how we rebuild the church.