Church in the margins; church in the halls of power…
I remember standing in the catacombs of Salzburg, when the church had to hide in the early Roman Empire before Constantine. I was struck by the humble, hidden and yet determined and tenacious work to create worship and burial as saints of the Living God. It was overwhelming. I have that same wonder at the church persecuted… and their impact. If you could hear the stories I am privileged to hear from the Middle East, and North Africa. Something changed. We stand for something different in the west, as the church.
I read a variety of sources during my prayer offices (scheduled times with God each day) or devotionals…whichever you are most comfortable with. From writings of MacCloed, and church fathers and mothers, to the Benedictine prayer book, the Common Book of Prayer and a new work, Common Prayer, a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. In reading the latter early this morning, I read,:
American preacher Howard Thurman wrote, “Too often the price exacted by society for security and respectability is that the Christian movement in its formal expression must be on the side of the strong against the weak. <Please stop and reread that sentence!> This is a matter of tremendous significance, for it reveals to what extent a religion that is born of a people acquainted with persecution and suffering has become the cornerstone of a civilization and of nations whose very position in modern life too often has been secured by a ruthless use of power applied to defenseless peoples.
The church began in the margins and the words written repeatedly was that the Christians loved sacrificially, loving when Romans fled due to plague. The Christians stayed to care for the Romans, Jews and Christians to their own loss…sacrifice. The depiction of Christians in the first century was one of a people who bless at all costs. Today most western Christians shun those at the bottom, on the margins, opting for the side of power, individual rights (to be greedy and pursue self advancement) and blame the broken state of the marginalized on themselves, co-opting a nationalism religion that defends empire, corporate invasions and even boasts of our supremacy as a nation. I find it absolutely amazing that we can link the humble Lamb of God to that life.
May we become a humble sacrificial people bent on manifesting Christ in our serving, sacrificing, loving, healing, advocating for the defenseless, and bringing the Kingdom to our world now, that His name might be made renown, that people will e undeniably compelled from the heart to know Him as we do, not as we rule with the powers of this world. Amen.