This health kick of food--in particular, organic food, has probably added a couple of days of extra life into my warehouse . . . but, I am not sure it has added enough for me to jump in with both feet. I have noticed that it has increased our weekly grocery bill and made my wallet thinner . . . I am glad someone or something is getting thinner from all of this healthiness! I have also noticed that it seems to make those who are whole-heartedly into this health craze . . . well, happy. Not being the one who is the stick in the mud, I have been supplying the whine for all the meals.
A part of this health kick is in the adventure of finding foods that are organic . . . and, even better, locally grown or made. Organic because it is better for the body without all the chemicals and antibiotics . . . locally grown or made because it is important to support the local economy, plus know who is providing the food. I figure that if the local fast food restaurant isn't god enough for locally made food supporting a bunch of local high school youth scraping to make a little money . . . well, nothing is. Trust me, I do not win this argument at family gatherings. Honestly, I understand the argument . . . I understand the principles of the argument . . . and, I even understand the morals of the argument . . . but, I want my grease with my Whopper.
But, this is not a blog about health or organic food. I will save that rant for another day as the wife keeps adding days to my life while I keep trumping them with those nasty fast food dishes. No, this is not about food at all. This is about the little cartoon at the top of the blog of the woman receiving communion. As the pastor offers her the bread he speaks the familiar words, "The body of Christ." Her response? "Is it locally made?" When I saw this cartoon I was struck by its theological implications . . . this is deep . . . and, it is funny.
A little theological background. In New Testament writings the body of Christ is the church, not a piece of bread . . . though there are those who would argue about this . . . but, not in the denomination that ordained me. The church is the body of Christ. Those who make up the church are the body of Christ . . . individually and corporately. Those of us in the church say this all of the time . . . we are the body of Christ to the world around us. If we truly believe this, then the question of the woman has some serious theological and practical implications . . . is the church "locally made"?
For a long time the church has been a center piece in the community and neighborhood . . . it has been a gathering place for people to come to worship and fellowship . . . and, the focus has pretty much been in side the four walls of the church. The emphasis is in that people "come" . . . the problem today is that no one is "coming". Mainline denominations are in decline . . . and, so are the mega churches. Churches everywhere are in decline as people have quit coming to them even though they have remained "spiritual, but not religious". The biggest complaint? That the churches are not connecting to where the people are. If this is the case, I would argue that the church is not "locally made".
Now that is a simplistic explanation of the problem, but I can promise you that it is much deeper than that. Yet, at the same time, I think that sums it up in a manner that we can all understand . . . the church needs to get out into the neighborhood and community . . . be our among the people . . . and, instead of saying they are the body of Christ, be the body of Christ. This is the idea behind the missional church movement . . . this is the idea behind the Open Circles movement. The church cannot be a silo unto itself, it must become a sort of 24-hour convenience store to meet the needs of those around it. It needs to be local.
Jesus strikes me as an individual who did not wait for people to come to him. No, he strikes me as the sort of person who took his show on the road to the people. Time after time we witness his ministry . . . his presence . . . among the people. He was being "local"! And, that is what he calls the church and those who make up the church . . . the body of Christ . . . to do. He calls us to be "local"? The question is: are we?
I will not answer that question as it is a question that I think we all need to struggle with as individual followers of Jesus and as the congregation that proclaims itself to be the body of Christ. All I do know for certain is that the way we are going about being the "church" today is not working. The writing has been on the wall for a long, long time. It is time to start being local . . . actually venturing out into the neighborhoods we exist in . . . getting to know our neighbors . . . getting to know their needs and concerns . . . of being the presence and body of Christ where we are. It might not taste great at first . . . but, it will add life to the body. I am sure there will be plenty who bring the whine because no one enjoys change. Being "local" involves change.
"Is it locally made?" My prayer would be that wherever a church exists . . . wherever an individual follower of Jesus is . . . that the answer would be "YES!" It is time for the church to be "local".