“Fear is the polio of the soul. Faith is the life based on unseen realities; it is the word become flesh.”
As followers of Jesus our prime mission, as both individuals and collectively as Church, should be to allow the Spirit to turn the “Word into flesh.”
Church has become an insulating place where people come to hide from the world when in truth it should be a place where we come together to worship God, get refreshed and fed, pray, break Bread, and THEN get up and go out into the world to do Kingdom work. If we surrendered so deeply and passionately to the Spirit we would find ourselves truly becoming the Word turned to flesh and our very lives and lifestyles would draw people to God.
Preach the Gospel, live compassion, show mercy, serve the poor and marginalized, love the loveless and unlovely – THAT is what Church should be collectively and what followers of Jesus should be individually.
I fear the Church – in both its striving for cultural relevance and in its historical rigidity – is fast becoming the greatest barrier to people growing in love with Jesus. The very vehicle for the Kingdom of God to be built on earth has become the very stumbling block to that mandate. And I say this as a Catholic deeply in love with and sometimes dismayed by the Church.
We should seek to turn the Word into flesh (and thanks to Rob Bell for the imagery), but I am starting to sense that far too many in leadership are turning the ‘flesh into word’. Some Christian leaders – Catholic and evangelical – are confusing following Jesus with turning the faith into a weapon for a culture war. The truths of God seen through the lens of fear turn only into fundamentalism and spiritual poison creating communities of intolerance and rigidity that leave no room for God’s lavish and messy grace.
I go to both Mass at a small, but sacred space, in a small town 75 miles outside of Washington, DC and I also occasionally attend a modern fellowship affiliated with The Brethren Church, so my eyes and ears are attuned to both sides of the Christian perspective as well as the modern and the historical and sometimes I am sickened by the ‘Ken and Barbie’ approach to faith. I fear that Jesus is indeed being preached but I do not always see the Word being turned into flesh.
Jesus loved the unlovely and the so-called unlovable, but would the people who are truly considered that way by the culture at large even feel at home in either of the churches I attend? Honestly, and surprisingly, they would most likely feel at home in the Catholic Mass (with its thousand plus year old tradition) rather than the hipster evangelical church.
If the addicted, the lonely, the traumatized and the modern-day ‘unclean’ are not ‘flocking’ to us the way they did to Jesus then I fear we are blocking the Spirit and preventing the Word being turned into flesh. For as Clarence Jordan’s translation of the Gospels (The Cotton Patch Gospels) says in his translation of John 1: “for the Word became flesh and came and pitched His tent among us.”
Jesus came to pitch his tent – his very being – among us. God came to us, not the other way around. But sometimes we Jesus followers forget that truth and we have smoke and mirrors and flash in the pan in the hopes that the broken and wounded will come to us. The mandate of the Church is clear: we are the ones who in imitation of Christ go to the world; it is an error of omission if we couch potato our faith, waiting to go, waiting for the call, when the call has already been given.
God, as revealed in Scriptures, is a mission God – One who comes to us and then sends us to those He hungers to draw close. God has been coming to us and sending us since He revealed Himself to Moses, and culminated in Jesus (Emmanuel – God with us).
The Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us so that we, while filled with the Spirit, might become a community where we become the Word (turned) into flesh.
Are we turning the flesh into word…or allowing the Spirit to turn us into the Word into flesh?
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Here is a Link to Pope Benedict’s recent message on living the faith, keeping it simple and joyful.