What is being explored here in Ecclesial Longings? What is the ecclesia, the church? In part this whole project is seeking an answer to that question. As I have said elsewhere in part this question is raised by two competing claims to be the Church, by the church centered in Rome and the churches of the east. And here is part of the rub, I have just used “church” in two differing ways in that last sentence. In some sense here I’m uninterested in the sociology of church, the various groupings of Christians and their respective institutions.
I suspect that most Christians in the United States when they use the word “Church”, actually mean church or churches. They mean the sociological reality of some group or grouping of groups that name themselves Christians and call themselves or believe themselves to be in someway church. While “Church” may include some or all of these groups I’m not interested in their purely historical or sociological existence. Rather I’m interested in what does or does not make these sociological and historically existent groups The Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the Church of God. What sends me off on this search is the conclusion that merely claiming to be Christian and/or a follower of Christ, even actually being those things, doesn’t equate to being the Body of Christ.
My difficulty is that I have been engaged, and most in my circles seem so engaged, primarily in the descriptive and pragmatic when it comes asking about the nature of the Church. But that means we are simply talking about church or churches. I think we pull back from or ignore the more essential question because to do so as Protestant calls into question some aspect of our current situation and may ask us to abandon comfortable ground. Asking what it truly means to be part of the body of Christ, means possibly admitting that we aren’t it. It means questioning the Reformation. For Ecumenically mind it may mean questioning and/or affirming the Reformation and rejecting Rome and/or the East, or it may mean radically facing that we are in a terrible confusion over something that is quite central to the work of God in Christ in the world. This is where I’m at, all I have is that we all are in a terrible confusion around this central question.
So, for clarity, the focus of this blog thread is to ask the question of the Body of Christ. This will certainly at moments touch upon the sociological and historical, but I will attempt to avoid calling the merely historical and sociological churches “Church” or “Body of Christ”. My search is to understand the nature of the Body of Christ, the Church, in such a way that it might tell us what the sociological and historically existent church and churches should look like and even perhaps tell us where the Church might be and even perhaps where it might not be. Though more importantly it is to say where the body of Christ is. In this I feel I am like those disciples of John the Forerunner who become the disciples and Apostles of Jesus in the Gospel of John, who when following after Jesus respond to Jesus’ question “what do you want” by asking where are you staying. Jesus answers come and see. (John 1:35-42) At least part of the answer to this question of the church is where Jesus resides and not where only where is Jesus at work in the world. I know and see the Triune God and thus Jesus Christ at work in all sorts of places and in all sorts of people believers and unbelievers alike, but to chase after where God is at work I think is to miss something of who God is and what God has done and is doing in Jesus Christ. What I’m seeking and what I curently believe the Church to be on some level is that place where Jesus rests and stays. I want to live out of that space, the space of the Church, a space of rest. In honesty I’m not there I’m somewhere between John the Baptist and actually seeing where Christ stays.
How we are thee church as sociologically and historically existent actuality emerges from this prior reality of being where Christ rests. At least this is where I am coming from at the moment, and the place I’d like people to come and explore with me here and in other spaces. I wish int this moment to set aside for our sociological and historical mess to figure out what the Church is in the first place. Of course for some the question is already settled. I also, would invite you to give me your answers your settled questions your certainty about church or churches as the Body of Christ. As long as you don’t mind my poking at your settled question.