In Eugene Peterson’s new book, Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ , we are treated to a response to the posted from Wednesday about criticizing the church.
What is the church? Do you tend to idealized the earliest churches? But do you neglect then the deformities of those same churches?
“Church,” he observes, “is the textured context in which we grow up in Christ to maturity.”
“So, why church? The short answer is because the Holy Spirit formed it to be a colony of heaven in the country of death” (11-12).
The church, he says, is those people who practice the resurrection of Christ in the country of death.
Sure, he admits, the church isn’t all it seems it should be but he makes this observation: “Maybe God knows what he is doing, giving us church, this church” (14). Peterson thinks Ephesians gives us a behind-the-scenes look at what church is.
“Sometimes we hear our friends talk in moony, romantic terms of the early church. ‘We need to get back to being just like the early church.’ Heaven help us. These churches were a mess, and Paul wrote his letters to them to try to clean up the mess” (16).
“And what comes clear,” in this letter to the Ephesians, “is that church is not what we do; it is what God does, although we participate in it” (17).
But “we don’t read Ephesians as a picture of a ‘perfect church’ to which we compare our congregations and try to copy what we see. Rather, we read Ephesians as the revelation of all the operations of the Triune God that are foundational beneath what is visible among us and at work throughout each congregation. This is what makes us what we are, however imperfectly or neurotically we happen to be living it out” (17-18).