Havering on the Way_2
It was actually the earliest word for what we now know as “Christianity.” If only that word had stuck instead of “Christianity” or even “Church.” Christianity as we typically know and practice it in this culture is such an event-full thing. And church as we know it is a box we fill at least once a week (if we are really serious about Christianity, that is) and often enough twice on Sundays. Christianity tends to have its adherents going from boxed event to boxed event to boxed event. And unfortunately we call both the box and the event “church.” Real church is neither, though it often can involve both. We step out of our personal boxes (our air conditioned homes), step into our air conditioned mobile boxes (we call them cars) and drive to a much larger air conditioned religious box (could be a “church”, a retreat center, or someone else’s home) where we will experience some worship and some teaching to which we may or may not give the thumps up before wiping our mouths, tipping the waiter and heading back out of that box to our mobile box parked neatly outside. We are off again, having performed Christianity for the moment, back into our mobile boxes and back to our domestic boxes – or perhaps, while occupying our own personal, invisible box, we visit one of those large shopping boxes or an eating box or a theater box.
Now don’t mistake me. I like and frequent all these boxes.
This isn’t an anti-box muse.
It’s not even a call to think outside the box.
It’s that the Way transcends all boxes.
In watching The Way I was confronted with the obvious. For me it served as the ultimate head-slapping, “duh!” moment of late. I’ve been reading and contemplating the Gospels for 36 years and I’m currently memorizing the Gospel of Mark and I simply wasn’t seeing what has been right before me all this time.
At least not with the clarity of this moment.
What we call Christianity began as and has always been intended to be a Way rather than a Weigh Station, a path traveled rather than a place attended. Jesus didn’t invite twelve guys to “church.” He called them to a journey during which they became church. Church is nothing more and nothing less than people – pilgrims, peregrinos – walking together in the Way.
It’s Tom from California, Joost from Amsterdam, Jack from Ireland and Sarah from Canada. It’s Jesus from Nazareth, Peter and Andrew, James and John, all from Galilee. Walking together. Experiencing a journey together. In his trek with the twelve, Jesus often visited the religious boxes of his time (called synagogues), mostly, I suspect, because people were there. In his journey he frequently went to where the people were – though ultimately they were constantly coming to him, overwhelming him on the Way and so frequently he was the one trying to get away from them. Ultimately the Way of Jesus was and is not about crowds nor about attracting them. He no doubt thinks it strange that as followers of what was and is a Way we are so fixated on a Box – on place and building and the carefully planned and produced events that happen there. Not that He can’t and doesn’t work with that. He can handle our boxes and even show up in them like he did in the religious boxes of his day.
But he still calls us to the Way along which such boxes can only ultimately serve as punctuation marks in the wide, flowing, unfolding, unboxed text of the Way we are meant to be taking with our own Tom, Joost, Jack and Sarahs.