After Christ, I don’t know how we can think of “God’s People” as we church-goers, as the righteous, or even religious. The people of God are everywhere. They are on the street, living next door, reading our meters, and selling us tires. God’s people are everywhere…wherever we are, especially where there is alienation, injustice, defeat, or despair. This is who Christ claimed in his sermons. They are our neighbors. We are those people. Considering where denominational religion has taken us, it seems we’ve gone far astray. Perhaps, outside the denominations and with faith outside their constraints is where God is…where God needs us the most.
I am embarrassed to say: many churches have grown insular, stagnant, and have become overly private communities – communities that are and want to remain familiar and close. Unlike others, I am not interested in bashing these churches, blaming “old people,” or argue about relevance. What I’m interested in is people of faith have faith that resembles Christ’s coming into the world. Into the world. The world “out there.” So many of us have to remember or (re)learn that to proclaim Jesus Christ is to proclaim God in everyday life, God amongst the people on the street, and a Kingdom that meets people where real life and real hunger, real hope and real despair, can come together.
Churches would benefit from hearing the prophets of the obvious. “Spend less time in your building and more time amidst My public places,” they shout. “Go to the markets, hang out on the internet, or at the unemployment office.” “Take down the walls of familiarity and hear my Gospel anew.” “Be both givers and receivers of its witness!”
Do the saved need to be saved?
Religion can close us up in our denominations, beliefs, and congregations. Familiarity is seductive. It can tempt us to believe we need to keep emotionally safe. But, Jesus told his disciples to “Go…” Bible studies, women’s groups, and Christmas dinners are rich and wonderful. But, Christ’s table is one of open communion. It is for the bruised and broken., We must proclaim God’s purposes where they are.
I’ve spent all week at denominational meetings in Independence, Missouri. One thing I’ve been reminded of this week is the importance of the Gospel and God’s intention that it be not just for us, but those around us.
Jesus is not a deity to be worshipped, but God’s outpouring invitation. The messiah came into the world. He was God-with-us. As followers of Jesus, we must follow him out into the world. Not to be tourists. But, to find him there – in the faces of others, the tears of strangers, the stories of other sisters and brothers.
It’s time Jesus’ people abandon their religions and do what Jesus did – go to where God’s people are. There, we might discover true faith begins beyond the walls of our congregations…and our religions.