Isn’t the Body of Christ the most amazing and eclectic group of believers? We have Latin chanting monks, kindly Protestant Sunday School teachers, pamphlet passing door-to-door bell ringers, mega church preachers and missionaries in the wilderness, all on the same team for Jesus. We come from many traditions, many perspectives and yet all follow the same Lord and read (mostly) the same Bible. Quakers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, Prebyterians, Evangelicals, Latter Day Saints, Baptists, and Amish: all fellow Christ followers. Whether we agree with each other or not.
Growing up, having all these different Christian groups confused me. I was raised in the rectory of an Episcopal church, my father was vested in liturgical garb every Sunday for Eucharist and we had a loving, faithful group of people to worship with using The Book Of Common Prayer. But I knew things were quite different at the Presbyterian church next door with the felt board Bible stories and for the Catholic kids who went to CCD with scapulars around their necks and wore white dresses for their First Communions (oh, how I wanted to try on one of those veils). It was all sort of mysterious trying to figure out why Jesus was so different to my Lutheran, Church of Christ and Greek Orthodox friends as well and yet still exactly the same.
In college I met, fell in love and married a wonderful guy from a Catholic family of nine children. Nine kids in eleven years, no twins, kind of Catholic family. Going to mass every day kind of family. And within that group, several were later drawn towards an Evangelical tradition and joined other churches. I’ve watched my family and his wrestle with having their children choose another faith tradition over the one they were born into. Or no faith tradition at all. It can be painful, messy, and glorious at the same time.
I thought about all of this as I read about Chris Hoke, a prison chaplain who works with incarcerated gang members and those recently released from jail. He wrote a beautiful piece on patheos.com called Monasticism in Lockdown America about how he, a Protestant Chaplain, teaches inmates the practices of Roman Catholic and Orthodox monks who follow ancient monastic rule. He explains why, by living apart from the distractions of the world, they find encounter God and His Mercy. In their involuntary solitude, he recommends to prisoners a way of life designed to connect with God. (Go over and read it, you will be inspired).
So maybe the answer is to embrace it all, our messy differences and all of the traditions and sects and disagreements between us, the Body of Christ. Because there are lessons to learn from each other, in our liturgies, in our music, in our worship and in our prayer traditions. It is possible we miss out when we dismiss a particular brand of Christianity as not being for us, when we decide a church is not correct or blasphemous or in error. Maybe we need to open up our hearts more and see each other more clearly.
Maybe there is something of incredible value next door.
1 Corinthians 12:27 “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
“Body of Christ” print by Kristen Ramsey Click on image to order.