According to the NT, ‘Christians’ were first called ‘People of the Way’. This is how Paul identified the people he hunted down, and himself. No mention of the name Christ. A progressive view focuses on the teaching rather than the teacher. In this view, Ethics is primary and provides a level playing field for our working together with all people of good will.
The term ‘Way’ comes from Jesus identifying himself as the Way, Truth and Life. It seems to me that the Way of Jesus and the Truth of Jesus are the same: his living and his dying.
This is also the truth of church – it is both Living and Dying. The adolescent assertive, Constantinian empire, Sunday church is dying. It was bypass meadow. But the mature, empathetic, conversational Monday church of the Way of self-giving is alive in all pilgrims who progress, whether they are religious or not.
Dying with dignity is a contemporary concern. Death is natural to all life, but letting go is tough. We cling to life. May I paraphrase the gospel: ‘they who will save their church will lose it, but they who lose their church for my sake and for the gospel [of the Way] will save it’. More than most, this text preserves the disconcerting irony of Jesus’ teaching. The church dying is OK, it’s welcome, it’s a necessity. Jesus’ story warns us that building bigger barns is a dead end.
Some say the UCA is only moving chairs on the Titanic, desperately trying to save the church. Have we had enough church life to enable us to relinquish our clutch? We don’t wish to liquidate resources we have received as a trust. But how can we do church in the way of dying, in the way of relinquishing, the way of freedom and free thinking?
How would you like to be free of the institutional church its creeds and rosters if you had meet ups with neighbours of all beliefs to share conversations about worthwhile endeavours and motivation for life.
How would it be to relinquish our properties to create social centres and community housing of benefit to more needy people?
How would it be for church to give up being preferenced by governments and share our power and resources to work with all people of good will for the benefit of the whole community.
If we grasp the counter-intuitive irony of being a dying church we may still make fruitful today what Jesus brought to the world 2000 years ago.