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Thinking the Faith, Praying the Faith, Living the Faith is written by the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship.

Thinking, praying, and living the faith is at the core of ministry in the Office of Theology and Worship. In the following videos, learn more about what thinking, praying, and living the faith means to the leadership of the Office of Theology and Worship. Discover why it matters and what difference it makes in our lives, work, and worship.  

Charles Wiley  
Barry Ensign-George
David Gambrell
Christine Hong 
Karen Russell

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August 30, 2013

Grateful for Grace

There’s been chatter these days in the blogosphere about why we need the church.  In a recent blog post on our Theology and Worship blog where Barry Ensign-George links to these discussions, he also points out that these posts assume that being part of the church is a voluntary decision when, in fact, by virtue of our baptism we already ARE a part of the body of Christ.  

This has me thinking about farm wives who tell tales about killing a chicken for Sunday dinner.  (I know it’s a graphic leap, but hang with me a minute.)  One woman had just chopped off the chicken’s head when she heard someone scream outside.  Because chickens continue to flop around after having their heads cut off, she opened one of the bins on her old Hoosier cabinet, shoved the still-bleeding chicken inside and ran to see what had happened.  One of her children had fallen and cut himself.  Once she had washed and salved and kissed him well, she remembered the chicken.  She returned to her kitchen, opened the bin drawer, and out ran the  headless chicken.  It ran off the cabinet onto the floor and was running all around in a surreal scene until it finally collapsed.  There have been cases of chickens living 18 months without a head.  Researching, you can find that this is not unique to chickens.  Brainless octopus will dance for your dinner and headless frog legs twitch as you prepare to cook them.  

Why all this gross stuff, you may wonder?  It seems that animals aren’t the only creatures running around headless.  If we were baptized and affirmed those baptismal vows as responsible free agents, yet refuse to go to church, we’re walking around in the world like a headless, brainless chicken, cut off from Christ, our head and the rest of his body, the church.  Why would we want to do that?  

Yeah, having worked for churches, in seminaries, and now at denominational HQ, I know only too well how the sausage is made, yet I’ll eat sausage rather than starve. Besides, I find I still like sausage. 

Oh, sure, I’ve thought about leaving the church.  Seriously.  No self-respecting smart woman hasn’t, given the way we’re too often treated as second-class citizens.  But as I stood in church reciting the Apostles’ Creed one day during this period in my life, I just started weeping.  I really do believe this, I realized.  Those words convey a mystery I know is true because I know the reality of the living Lord Jesus Christ.  I cannot NOT believe because I know the truth of it all: there really is a force for goodness and love and justice and peace and care that defies all attempts to string it up on a cross and cut it off.  And the people who have most lived and worked and died to bear witness to and institute these principles have been ordinary folks in the church.  

Sure, they can be catty and cranky.  Who can’t?  Some can even be downright evil (what better place could evil lurk?).  We have no illusions here, and that’s one of the things I like about a good church—we know we’re nothing but a group of recovering sinners doing the best we can to follow Christ and praise God with all they’ve got, grateful for grace.  And that’s enough, more than enough, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to change the world, as we see down through the ages in quiet people like Antoinette Tuff, a school bookkeeper who thwarted a gunman at an elementary school earlier this month, remembering what she heard her pastor said in one sermon.  

What a miracle the church is!   God must be behind it because it lives on in spite of all our all-too-human attempts to kill it over and over again.  Besides, church is my family, and I really don’t like it when folks talk about my Mama like that.    

Tags: church, headless chicken, why church, why go to church, why i need the church