What does it mean to be Church?

The title of this post is the question that we will be looking at during the next session of Pub Theology. On Friday, August 6th we will attempt to answer this question. We will meet at 7pm at the Dark Horse Tavern at 12 Crane Street in Southbridge. If you are around come by and join in on the conversation.

Recently I came under attack for daring to sit with people who are not Orthodox and discuss what it means to be Church. “How can you sit with people who do not have the same experience of church as the Orthodox do?” was the question.

We Orthodox believe, and we say during each Divine Liturgy, that we have found the true faith worshiping the Undivided Trinity who has saved us. We believe that the entirety of the truth resides in the Orthodox Church. We believe that we have an unbroken line of teaching from the Apostles. I believe this or I would not be doing what I am doing.

With that said, we also believe that truth exists on other places. We have the whole story of you will, but parts of the story do exists in other places. How can I sit with people who do not come from a Sacramental Church? Yes the Orthodox have Sacraments and other churches do not. Does this mean that truth does not exists there? Is God not working in and through the people who attend those churches? I have no idea what God does and I choose not to judge people as the Scriptures teach, that is not my job that is left to God alone to do.

During the three years of the ministry of Jesus here on earth, he sat with the less desirable in the community. He did this because he was teaching them. The fathers and mothers of our church call the church the hospital for the spiritually sick. The church is the place where people come to be healed of all that ails them. Being church is more than ethnic festivals and bake sales. It is more than pretty temples and music. It is more than vestments and titles. The church is about love, love of neighbor and as it clearly states in Matthew 25:31-46, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and destitute. That’s what it means to be church. The arrogant think they can simply open the doors of the church and people will come.

In 1933, a Frenchman named Peter Maurin along with Dorothy Day founded what would become known as the Catholic Worker Movement. Peter would host roundtable discussion for clarity of thought. It was through speaking with different people, from all walks of life, that he clarified his thought and hoped that others would do the same thing.

We live in a very confusing time. Some have said that we have more people going to church in American than any other country in the western world. This might be true, but they certainly are not a spiritual people. What do I mean by that? We are not taking the message out of the church when we leave. We sit in church, sing the songs, nod during the sermon, but then leave it all on the pew when we leave the church. We have lost our moral ground no doubt. But the church should not be involved in trying to influence legislation we should be involved in trying the influence the culture around us! If we do that then the legislation will take care of itself. Peter Maurin knew that by clarification of his own thoughts and having a clear understanding of where people on the other side of the issue come from then he would be in a better position to influence the world.

What does it mean to be church? For me it means that we need to be engaged in the work of helping people and saving their souls. We need to feed the hungry, because the hungry man cannot hear the message because his stomach is growling so loud. We need to clothe the naked, because the naked a shivering from the cold and cannot hear the Word because of his intense cold. And we need to visit the sick and those in prison because they need to hear the Word that the walls of the prison and the walls of their sickness make it impossible to hear. We cannot do any of these things unless we engage the culture we live in. Being church means no judging people just because they do not agree with us. Jesus knew this and sat with people who did not have the best reputation in the world. He sat with them to teach them. Not by calling them wrong, but by sowing them the true light, that is the light that we have in the Orthodox world. But we cannot show it to them if we refuse to talk to them.

Just as we use Scripture and Tradition faith without works is dead. What does it mean to be Church? It means living the living faith of Jesus Christ 24/7 not just on Sunday. It means being that positive witness to the world that the world so desperately needs and we do that by being out there in the world working and teaching with love. The gentle correcting love of a father for his children but with love.

For me I can sum up in one word what it means to be Church: LOVE. Love of God and love of Neighbor! That’s what it means to be Church.

1 Comment

  1. yes,yes,yes….
    you preach it father because when your right your right!
    Jesus was a Jew but sat,ate and preached the good news to the gentiles also.
    We are all God children and as such need to respect and love each other.not just those who belong to our religion,
    Jesus said love one another has I have loved you…linda

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