Friday, June 7, 2013

In 27 years of working in diocesan offices I saw many parish groups come in with plans for church buildings. Each had good reasons for designing the church as they had, the dimensions and the seating and the lighting and the colors. there are also many in society who try to design their own church — not the walls and décor, but the doctrine and content. Invariably it is a “feel-good” church that is designed around only that set of beliefs that doesn’t challenge me, but makes me feel affirmed and warm and comfy. Invariably it is a church that proclaims a sub-set of Biblical truths and Christian doctrine, but none of the teaching that calls me out of my comfort zone, provokes my conscience, draws my Christian imagination beyond where it has already been, makes me squirm. It is a church that avoids those things that I don’t already understand and that doesn’t bring me face-to-face with mystery, questioning, uncertainty.

These “churches” pop up in storefronts and theatres, and may even fill stadiums and cable broadcasts, but such a church can also live in the mind of just one person. A steady stream of smiles and affirmations proclaim a gospel of prosperity and the prophecy of positive thinking, of tolerance and inclusion and a sentimental universal love without judging. It is a church of one’s own design. Amidst all the positive messaging and entertaining worship, the crucifixion of Jesus is nowhere to be seen or heard. The fullness of the Gospel is not to be experienced. Centuries of spiritual or doctrinal writings are ignored or forbidden. In short, the Gospel is censored. In His public ministry Jesus provoked and challenged, drawing people beyond their own ways of believing and judging and acting, opening eyes and hearts and minds to new avenues of thinking, living, choosing, believing. A church that stops at the confines of my own comfort, that lives within the walls of my own knowledge, is a very small church indeed. A church where I am the sole arbiter of orthodoxy is tiny. It is not the Church of Jesus Christ. Lord, where I have become closed to the fullness of your Revelation, open me. Where I have become merely comfortable in my beliefs, challenge me. Where I have set limits to my compassion, enlarge my heart. Where I have become blind to right and wrong, sharpen my dull moral sense.
May 9, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

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