Somewhere recently, I read or heard this: Institutions exist to protect the gains of social movements (whether they be political, cultural, or religious). Movements grow in order to challenge institutions that have become too interested in protecting the old and not interested enough in being helpful in a changing world.
So, is the church an institution or a movement? The answer may seem obvious. A lot of people stay away from church in part because they perceive the place to be so interested in protecting itself that it can’t hear today’s voices of anguish, need, despair, and new possibility.
But the truth is that the church has always been both; it has faithfully upheld the Gospel and its radical Good News for the dispossessed; and who among us hasn’t felt dispossessed at some point? It has shielded itself from the painful realities of a broken Creation in ways that are both tragic and sometimes shameful.
Tomorrow is the Pentecost, what is known in Christian tradition as the birthday of the church. The church that got born that day didn’t look much like what we know – or imagine - it to be today. There is much to learn, celebrate, and recover about the Holy Spirit’s wind-filled work among the earliest followers of Jesus. This work continues, and it offers hope, joy, and a vision of peace and justice to a world that needs all of the above.
A passage from the Book of Numbers, to be read tomorrow, speaks of the time when the Israelites wandered in the wilderness of the Sinai; they were a grumbling lot, following Moses only reluctantly and finding all manner of things to be grumpy about. When two of their tribe sneaked into the sacred tent and began prophesying, many of the “stiff-necked” Hebrews were mortified and ran to Moses to complain. Moses replied, saying, essentially, “Oh, for crying out loud! We need more prophets, not fewer. Would that everyone would become a prophet.”
It is largely that spirit that has given birth to the most vibrant and world-changing spiritual traditions – including our own. The birthday of the church should be a celebration of just this Spirit.
Join us for the birthday; we worship at 10 AM. Come be a prophet with us… It can even be fun, and we’ll even have something like a cake during our time of fellowship and refreshment following worship.