Christianity has become passé, if you read the statistics and look at the predictions, Christianity is headed for the grave. Especially we Episcopalians, full of rationality, education and social action, have seemed to lose our touch. These days we wonder what has happened in sixty short years, when churches were filled, people were active and religion seemed to matter.
What have we lost? Where are we going? Will we end up our days with lonely cavernous churches no longer relevant to a social media society? Two thousand years ago, the jury was still out on whether Christianity would make a mark in the religious world. When St. Paul wrote his letters to those early churches there were probably less than 5000 Christians in the entire world. It would take some time, but eventually Christianity grew and changed hearts and minds and society; changes that were radical and shaped our understanding of the nearness of God to human life.
Early Christianity told of a God who did not choose as followers the movers and shakers of the world, but instead chose the weak, the despised, the poor and those who were willing to form communities that included slave and free, male and female, rich and poor. Christianity taught that we should pray for our enemies, worry about the widow and the orphan, and start becoming whole by giving ourselves over to God’s holiness and loving our neighbors even if they didn’t deserve it.
This is what the early Christians believed, even though it sounded to them and to us like supreme foolishness. Then as now, everyone understood that the way you get ahead in this world was to beat your neighbors and better them every chance you get. After all when the final curtain comes down, the ones who loved this God of love ended up just as dead as the ones who never gave their faith the time of day.
Nothing looked more foolish than Christianity and yet it survived, it succeeded because when people started living it, they were changed. Suddenly they realized there was a different kind of gold in this teaching. If Christ had ended up as dead as everybody else, then he and they were damned fools and Jesus was the most tragic fool of all.
Jesus was raised from the dead. No matter what the world says, or what our rational understandings of the universe are, Jesus was the beginning of a new life that you and I still share. If this is not true, then everything we do or say is in vain. Easter is the proclamation that not only was the tomb of Jesus empty, but your tomb will be just as empty, because those who live in the Lord never see each other for the last time.
How do we regain this passion? How do we renew and reform ourselves and begin putting the faith of Jesus and Christ’s church ahead of all the other demands of our lives?
I don’t know the answer, but I do know that when we do, Churches will look different, be different, and people will want to be a part of such zest for life. It doesn’t take very much in a cold and hungry world, save open arms and hearts.