A Church Estranged From Humanity

 

Hear the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

 

Christ became a man of his people and his time:
   He lived as a Jew,
   he worked as a labourer of Nazareth,
   and since then he continues to become incarnate
      in everyone.
If many have distanced themselves from the church,
   it is precisely because the church has somewhat
      estranged itself from humanity.
But a church that can feel as its own all that is human,
   and wants to incarnate the pain,
   the hope,
   the affliction of all who suffer and feel joy,
such a church will be Christ loved and awaited,
   Christ present.
And that depends on us.

 

Romero was martyred on March 24, 1980. He was shot dead while celebrating Mass in El Salvador. He was a great prophet of the church who championed with conviction the way of peace and non-violence. I read quotes of his on a regular basis as his words often cut through the rhetoric of canon law, church policy, and a paralysed attachment to the old way of being church.

 

I stumbled on this quote this evening quite accidentally. I love it. In these few words we are reminded that the church needs to be connected to humanity. We have heard and read much of late about the struggles of the Anglican Church. For heavens sake, we have also heard of the struggles of all mainline churches. All of those struggles revolve around the very fact that “many have distanced themselves from the church.” Romero reminds us that it is as much the other way as anything. Face it – as curch we are often out of touch.

 

Want a Christian community that is alive? – create a community that “will incarnate the pain, the hope, the affliction of all who suffer and feel joy…” In other words we as leaders need to encourage communities that are real. We need to focus our energy on making progressive, real communities. There are a lot who like to play church. Liturgy is reduced to put on voices and a lack of personal interaction. If it is not located between the pages of an all important and all holy book or liturgy, it simply is not said. Spontaneity and creativity in worship are seen as unrighteous and liturgically incorrect. In the meantime, the numbers continue to fall away while people in pristine robes declare that we must hold firm till people come back to “the faith, the church, the truth.” I think that while we wait, Jesus has left, gone to be present in humanity and with humanity. Jesus is working hard at being as incarnate as possible.  

 

I like what Romero is calling us to. I would sum it up this way. If we want Christ present in our communities we need to start working at being present with each other.  I’m glad that I belong to a community that works hard toward that very end. I love it when I can hear people respond during Mass – The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia – And I know they mean it! They know the risen Christ is present because they are present with each other.