The name for this blog comes from the Hebrew word merchab. Merchab is a masculine noun that appears most often in the Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures. It means a broad or roomy place, an expansive place, a wide place. Read more...

September 24, 2008

The Work of the Church

I want to post this quote without much comment. It was shared with me the other day by someone who heard Richard Rohr say it at a conference in Portland Oregon. Rohr said, "The work of the church is to keep the heart space and the mind space open." This is such a lovely vision of church.

Imagine a church in which the only goal, vision, requirement was that your heart and your mind remain open to God and to the other people around you. "Oh but this does not sound safe. How would we know what we believe? How would we know what we stand for?"

Jesus did not seem to share the fear that somehow openness would lead us astray. Jesus trusted the work of God's Spirit in pepoles' lives. Jesus said, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth." (John 16:13) In order for God's Spirit to be at work in our lives we only need to intend to allow God's Spirit to be at work in our lives. We can trust that God's Spirit is working in the lives of all those with whom we share in worship.

If a person can come forward and stand or kneel at the table of the Lord with hands open and receive a tiny piece of bread and a sip of wine, there is nothing more we need to know. It is enough. They have indicated by their action that the desire of their heart is to open to God. What other possible reason could there be for participating in this ceremony? Why else would anyone go to the trouble of getting up on a Sunday morning and coming to church? There is certainly no longer any social pressure that would cause a person to participate in corporate worship.

People come to church because, at some level, they desire to open to God. They desire to allow God's Spirit to be at work in their lives. God honours this desire. And, wherever this desire is acknowledged, God's Spirit will grow and God's work will get done.

Having an open heart and an open mind does not mean that anything goes. Having an open mind means that while we may hold firmly and passionately to our own convictions we will also respect and honour the convictions of those who may disagree with us. We will be willing to acknoweldge that our grasp of the truth is only partial and we may be wrong. To have an open mind is to know deeply that truth is larger than anyone person or any particular formulation of that truth. Our understanding of life over time will change and grow. If we are alive, we will receive greater wisdom. Our comprehension of truth is never fixed. Truth is dynamic and living; as we grow our ability to see truth will also grow.

Having an open heart means that we will be open to everything that brings life and we will do all we can to participate in creating an environment that is life-giving for all participants. From a position of true openness it is possible to draw appropriate boundaries around violent, destructive behaviour. But the boundaries we draw will always be in the service of life, never simply for the purpose of helping us feel safe and comfortable in our protected little world. Openness of heart means a willingness to expand our vision and to draw the circle of God's love as wide as we can possibly bear.

This kind of openness is only frightening if we cannot trust God's presence in our own lives, in the lives of others and in our interactions together. There is nothing to fear when we trust that God's Spirit is indeed present and active in all of life. We only need to open, embrace, extend absolute hospitality to all people and receive them as they are. God can be trusted wherever there is an open heart and an open mind.

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