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Blog Post

Bishops, Bombs & the Church of the naughty

Ruined church in Nagasaki

"He can no longer have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother; . . . he who gathers elsewhere than in the Church scatters the Church of Christ"(vi.);"nor is there any other home to believers but the one Church" -----------"De unitate ecclesiae." St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage

Rivulets of emotion run through me as read this quote. I would argue with this martyr I feel. I would recall the multitude I’ve seen the church reject or mangle. How many good friends, comrades in arms for Christ and his kingdom I've watched the church drain then break. Yet I know the theology of despair is a poor basis for an argument, especially when the God of grace and peace loves the church so much. Perhaps I would switch track, tackle him from another angle, talk of a untamed God that our anaemic institutions cannot hold. A God abroad in his good world on mission. Yet I know that mission is to invite us to become co-creators, co-heirs, co-authors of a new humanity and that Gods chosen nursery for this new Genesis is the church. I do not think I could take the Bishop of Carthage in this argument. Perhaps we could agree that the church should be the beginning of all things made new.....by being resurrected.

A poem turns in my mind as I visit these thoughts:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre. The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.

-------------“The Second Coming” William Butler Yeats

Fundamentalism has brought with it the passionate and powerful ability to destroy and destabilise. An American president can quote Isaiah from the deck of an aircraft carrier claiming victory for the forces of light. While an Iranian president, busy making uranium, can order the city council of Tehran to build a grand avenue in preparation of the return of al-Mahdi – a messianic figure who returns at the end of the world. Here I remember St. Francis, caught in the middle of the crusades and his prayer for peace.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon, where there is discord, union, where there is doubt, faith, where there is error, truth, where there is despair, hope, where there is sadness, joy, where there is darkness, light. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

I resonate with Francis and the Franciscans for numerous reasons, not the least of which is they seem to be constantly in trouble. Francis crossed enemy lines to bring Al-Kamil sultan of Egypt the gospel of peace, he also tried to persuade Cardinal Pelagius to cease Christian involvement in the crusade. It seems to me an act of reckless, passionate hope. Perhaps just what his world needed. Francis didn’t stop with such singular acts however.

One summer day, in 1206, Francis was walking in the vicinity of San Damiano when he felt an interior tug of the Spirit to go inside the crumbling church. Before cross he prayed this prayer: "Most High, glorious God, cast your light into the darkness of my heart. Give me, Lord, right faith, firm hope, perfect charity, and profound humility, with wisdom and perception, so that I may carry out what is truly Your holy will. Amen." Then, in the quietness, Francis heard Jesus speaking to him from the Cross: "Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you can see, is falling into ruin." Another translation gives these words as, "Francis, don't you see that my house is being destroyed? Go, then, and rebuild it for me."

Francis went on to build communities of every kind of believer. Believers like St. Juniper, who when left in charge of a cathedral for a short time gave all the alter treasures to the poor....oops! Who was known to give away the only thing he possessed, his robe, so frequently to the poor that he was put under obedience not to do so. Directly after which he met a half naked beggar on the road, “Sir he said, you have caught me at a bad time, I cannot give you my robe.....but if you were to take it from me...”. The tales of Junipers innocent naughtiness go on and on.

Jesus says that apart from him we can do nothing. He also says that where we gather in his name there he will be amongst us. Could it be that the answer to the ever swelling ranks of the jaded is a reckless love for Him? One that cannot forsake the dream of the Church – because it is Christ’s. Could it be that our world needs communities of reckless innocence naughtiness more than ever before?