Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dead Idea #4-- Permanence is more Important than Performance

Every established religion-- that is, every religion given privilege and power by the culture that surrounds it-- becomes enamored with bricks and mortar. Establishment gives a faith worldly resources that are most easily used for worldly ends, so faith is literally set into stone.
From every European city's cathedral to the square windowless mall-like warehouses of Dallas, the power and prestige of Christian faith is proclaimed by buildings no one lives in, built with great sacrifice by the common people, so that the culture at large cannot look across the skyline without having to encounter a cross on a spire.
But faith cannot be set into stone. The story can be told, yes-- but faith is written on human hearts. How many of those stone cathedrals now are warehouses for chairs in Europe? How many of the great stone piles put up in the flush times of the last century with names like Presbyterian or Episcopal on their signs sit empty across America?
Established faiths play on the impermanence of human achievement to garner riches to build these piles. Give your money to the church, and a stained glass window with your name, your beloved's name, will stand in the sanctuary, and people will remember you, and them. Buildings testify to us.
But Jesus says that we are to be witnesses to HIM! Obedience matters more than memory-- performance of Christ's commands matters more than the permanence of one's achievements. We have much to learn from our older siblings, especially the Jews of Europe. No great cathedral is necessary for the performance of our obedient love for Christ; all that is needed is a room, and the Book, and faithful people gathered in His name.
The true Church, the great congregations of this and every age, are not those that leave behind the largest sarcophagus in which their faith is buried. The true Church, the great congregations are those that so live out their faith and pour out their lives that the law of Christ is written anew on hearts young and old, of every race, station, and circumstance. The true Church does not leave anything behind it-- the true Church through obedience plants that which will succeed it.

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