Life Aboard The Ark
Are you looking for a place where you can meet people with whom you have everything in common, get excited about like-minded politics, share the same hobbies and identical social concerns? Then you should probably look somewhere other than the Church.
The Church is a lousy social club. It is far too messy and made up of far too many different types of people to be much of a club. It always has been. Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, slave and free, educated and illiterate, the Church has always been the Ark of Salvation of which Noah's boat, filled with every kind of creature, was but a type. We might even say that is the point of the Church, not diversity for diversity’s sake, but rather the gathering “together in one all things in Christ.” (Eph. 1.10)
Social clubs are human institutions bringing people together according to their opinions and fancies and common causes. They are man-made, formed around an idea or an ideal. The Church is not man-made. It's not a religious club for people that want to vote for the same candidate or cheer for the same team. It is Christ-made, the divinely-formed, crucified Body of Christ that rises to be, what St. Paul calls, the "one new man” (Eph. 2.15), defined neither by ethnicity nor politics, idea nor ideal, but by the one Mystery of Christ.
So it is no surprise that, by the measures of this world, we are quite different from one another. God has joined such diverse people together in the Church precisely to manifest in this world the Mystery of the Kingdom of God, the gathering “together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.”
But just because the Church is not man-made does not mean that we don’t have to work at it. Open your Bible to just about any page and you will find that sometimes life in the Church is difficult and our fellowship with one another hard. And so while the Church is not man-made we must always pray, love, forgive, refuse to judge, confess our own sins, in short, do everything possible to "preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4.3)
We will not be saved alone; only together.
With love in Christ, Fr John
“Give me a word!”
Every one of us is in the image of God‚ and every one of us is like a damaged icon. But if we were given an icon damaged by time‚ damaged by circumstances‚ or desecrated by human hatred‚ we would treat it with reverence‚ with tenderness‚ with broken-heartedness. We would not pay attention primarily to the fact that it is damaged‚ but to the tragedy of its being damaged. We would concentrate on what is left of its beauty‚ and not on what is lost of its beauty. And this is what we must learn to do with regard to each person as an individual‚ but also – and this is not always as easy – with regard to groups of people‚ whether it be a parish or a denomination‚ or a nation.
-Metropolitan Anthony Bloom
There is no need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one's hand and say, "Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy." And if the conflict grows fiercer say, "Lord help!" God knows very well what we need and He shows us His mercy.
If someone puts his trust in God in a matter, let him not argue with his brother about it.
+St Mark the Ascetic