Monday, October 26, 2009

A great definition of what the Church should be (in dialogue form)

(Stolen from my friend Skip)

This is a dialogue from a story by George MacDonald titled, Robert Falconer. In total it is a wonderful story. Falconer came from a very humble background as a shepherd, but he always had a deep desire to learn, and to know Christ. As an adult, with help from friends, he became a physician. He served as physician to the poorest of the poor in his city. He developed partnerships with other Christians to serve the poor. He met the young man he is in dialogue with here, and invited him to accompany him on his rounds. This takes place after they had made the rounds for the evening, and the young man asks Falconer, “Are you all a church?” To which Falconer responds, “No.” What you will read here is much along the lines of what I believe being the church means.

Are You A Church?

‘Are you a society, then?’ I asked at length.
‘No. At least we don’t use the word. And certainly no other society
would acknowledge us.’
‘What are you, then?’
‘Why should we be anything, so long as we do our work?’
‘Don’t you think there is some affectation in refusing a name?’
‘Yes, if the name belongs to you? Not otherwise.’
‘Do you lay claim to no epithet of any sort?’
‘We are a church, if you like. There!’
‘Who is your clergyman?’
‘Where do you meet?’
‘What are your rules, then?’
‘We have none.’
‘What makes you a church?’
‘Divine Service.’
‘What do you mean by that?’
‘The sort of thing you have seen tonight.’
‘What is your creed?’
‘Christ Jesus.’
‘But what do you believe about him?’
‘What we can. We count any belief in him—the smallest—better
than any belief about him—the greatest—or about anything else
besides. But we exclude no one.’
‘How do you manage without that?’
‘By admitting no one.’
‘I cannot understand you.’
‘Well, then: we are an undefined company of people, who have
grown into human relations with each other naturally, through one
attractive force—love for human beings, regarding them as human
beings only in virtue of the divine in them.’
‘But you must have some rules,’ I insisted.
‘None whatever. They would cause us only trouble. We have nothing
to take us from our work. Those that are most in earnest, draw
most together; those that are on the outskirts have only to do nothing,
and they are free of us. But we do sometimes ask people to help
us—not with money.’
‘But who are the we?’
‘Why you, if you will do anything, and I and Miss St. John and
twenty others—and a great many more I don’t know, for every one
is a centre to others. It is our work that binds us together.’
‘Then when that stops you drop to pieces.’
‘Yes, thank God. We shall then die. There will be no corporate
body—which means a bodied body, or an unsouled body, left behind
to simulate life, and corrupt, and work no end of disease. We
go to ashes at once, and leave no corpse for a ghoul to inhabit and
make a vampire of. When our spirit is dead, our body is vanished.’
‘Then you won’t last long.’
‘Then we oughtn’t to last long.’
‘But the work of the world could not go on so.’
‘We are not the life of the world. God is. And when we fail, He
can and will send out more and better labourers into his harvest field.
It is a divine accident by which we are thus associated.’
‘But surely the church must be otherwise constituted.’
‘My dear sir, you forget: I said we were a church, not the church.’
‘Do you belong to the Church of England?’
‘Yes, some of us. Why should we not? In as much as she has faithfully
preserved the holy records and traditions, our obligations to
her are infinite. And to leave her would be to quarrel, and start a
thousand vermiculate questions, as Lord Bacon calls them, for which
life is too serious in my eyes. I have no time for that.’
‘Then you count the Church of England the Church?’
‘Of England, yes; of the universe, no: that is constituted just like ours,
with the living working Lord for the heart of it.’
‘Will you take me for a member?’
‘Will you not, if—?’
‘You may make yourself one if you will. I will not speak a word to
gain you. I have shown you work. Do something, and you are of
Christ’s Church.’
We were almost at the door of my lodging, and I was getting very
weary in body, and indeed in mind, though I hope not in heart.
Before we separated, I ventured to say,
‘Will you tell me why you invited me to come and see you? Forgive
my presumption, but you seemed to seek acquaintance with
me, although you did make me address you first.’
He laughed gently, and answered in the words of the ancient
‘The moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.’
Robert Falconer

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