neither here nor there

Yesterday I came across these words of Jesus, ones I've referred to often, and they seemed to speak to my disappointment on the issue of authority in the church:

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, Jesus answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Lo, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is among you." (Lk 17.20-21)

There's a certain frustration in recognizing that we probably can't find (or gather) a church organization that closely follows Jesus' example with his disciples. Not enough people will put up with it, feel secure in it, or live up to it. It's a shame that we keep calling our churches the body of Christ, when they're not much like he was. But I don't think we should abandon these gatherings.

What's important, I think, is to see what they really are: simply gathering places where Christians may be found, which is good, even though they're not all they claim to be. And it's even more important to see the church as it really is, and not get confused or distracted by the churches. The one church, Christ's body, with no head but Christ, whose members are spread throughout denominations and cultures and ages.

So even though we can't get our church leaders (and the people who vote them into office) to act like Jesus regarding human authority and power, that's really of little concern. Jesus told us we weren't going to be able to point to the kingdom of God "here" or "there" like we can with our church organizations. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It just means that it exists among us in a way that is not clearly identified like our nations and corporations and religious institutions are identified. There are people who follow Jesus' example and have no use for human power. Who won't become king even when others want to make them king, who won't be called "father" or "master" because they know we are all brothers and sisters. Those who so completely trust in God's parenting of our world that they aren't tempted to try to take charge themselves. And these show the true nature of the body of Christ.

We need to be these people, and rejoice when we encounter them, and not worry so much about the institutions that call themselves "church." Those are not the Body; those are what we build and we do not build the Body. But we are invited to live as part of it, wherever we are.