One of the ways that we get the Church most wrong is in the pronouns. The Church is not it. The Church is She. 
We all know that the Church (or, if you like, local church) is not the building. But there are plenty of other things that the Church is not. The Church is not an organization. The Church is not an institution. The Church is not a machine. Neither is the Church a corporation, a club, a society, a party, a lobby/pressure group, or (most of all) a business. The Church is none of these, because the Church is not it. The Church is She.
The Church is an organism. The Church is a cosmic being. She is the Bride of Christ. She is the Body of Christ. She is alive, and She never dies. All Christians who have ever lived, including those who have died, still have a voice in the Church. The saints of ages past still speak because, though She is wounded, yet She lives.
Your church, my church, the local bodies of Christ to which we belong, are microorganisms. They are microcosms. Pictures of the whole. They are she, the sum of them being She, and they are alive. Your church is a living organism. Your church is not an organization.

The implications of this are manifold. Most importantly, She is loved. Christ loves His Bride. Like all brides, the love of Her Lover gives Her life. His love breathes life into Her soul. The Church smiles and laughs when She thinks of how Her Lover loves Her. The Church weeps when She thinks of how She has abandoned Her Lover, and how He has pursued Her and restored Her. She lives. She moves. She has Her being in the One who loved Her so deeply that He died to give Her birth.
We murder the Church when we dehumanize Her. We murder Her when we call Her ‘Organization’ and ‘Institution.’ These are dead things. Inanimate. They speak only the words of the men who run them. But She speaks the words of life, because She has been given them–to keep and to guard. To speak light into darkness. To speak life into death. To speak truth to power. To speak ‘No!’ and ‘Stop!’ to evil. To shout, ‘In the name of Jesus, not here, not now, not ever!’ 
We murder the Church when we apply to Her the principles of Corporate America. We press a dagger through Her heart when we demand of Her productivity and efficiency. We send Her to the mines, we enslave Her, when we retrofit Her with the greased wheels of successful business practices. The Church, after all, does not produce. She begets.
She is alive. He is alive. He calls to Her. Does She answer? Does She hear? Who has torn out Her ears? Who has clipped Her tongue? Why are You silent, O Beloved? Why are You still? Don’t You know that You are not It? You are She.

I’ve been doing a lot of studying lately. December is an off-month for me, which means there are no classes to teach. So I’m trying to take advantage of the downtime by preparing for the classes that begin in January. I’ll be teaching Galatians, Hosea, and doing an e4 session on the Wisdom Books.

The book I chose to study in preparation for the Psalms (Just one of the five Wisdom Books) is “Praying the Psalms” by Walter Brueggemann. I chose the book mostly because it was short and appeared to be both scholarly and practical, which is the thrust of our e4 program. I should also point out that in my first e4 session I railed against Brueggemann’s awful exegesis of the book of Luke, so coming back to him is a work of redemption. 
His book hasn’t particularly blown me away, but I just finished the second chapter, “The Liberation of Language.” I appreciate the distinction he makes between language that describes things as they are and language that creates new spaces. The Psalms fall into the latter category. These poems and prayers do not describe the world as it is. Rather, they create a space of communion between hurting people and a healing God, or between celebrative people and an overjoyed Lord. They are not the language of, to use my own experience, computer engineering. They are the language of theatre.
Psalms are words which occupy a space for which there are no words. They create a bond between creature and Creator. They give breath to both inexpressible grief and joy. In the Psalms we find a depth of true expression that we did not know existed, or did not think we had permission to speak. The Psalms set our hearts free to speak to God as sons and daughters, with all the familiarity of in-the-family language. They are the inside-jokes, so to speak, of God’s household. They are our special language to him–a personal prayer language for God’s children.
They are also prayers that we can offer on behalf of others. I am not always writhing in the agony of Psalm 22, but more often than not, I know someone who is. These are our prayers for ourselves and for each other. May it be so in me.

Last night I was hanging out with Cyrus and Eisley while Breena was with friends, and the kids and I were down in the basement playing. Breena’s old megaphone from her cheerleading days was down there, and I started talking into it. Cyrus and Eisley thought it was the most hilarious thing ever! Cyrus was sticking his head right into the end of it and I would say, “Cyrus!” He laughed so hard, and then he said, “So loud. Why?” Why was it so loud? That’s hard to explain to a 2 year old, so I just said, “physics.” “Oh,” he said, “physcuits.” Yeah. Physcuits.

Every time I log into my blog I see those numbers in the right-hand column staring back at me, mocking me, telling me, “You’ve given up on this, too.” Eleven posts in September, and just three so far in October. But why?

The truth is I’ve been really busy, and blogging doesn’t make it to the top of my priority list. Perhaps if I were paid to do this…. But this week alone I have to write a sermon for the high school fall retreat (done), study the historical books for an e4 session I’m teaching next Tuesday (not done), finish reading Surprised by Hope by NT Wright (done), prepare for a preaching meeting because I’m preaching at my church the last weekend of November (half done), prepare a session on Isaiah (not done), and prepare a session on John (not started). And I’m sure I’m forgetting something. Please God, don’t call for a video this weekend!

I was reading through Psalm 51 this morning and I was struck by the absolute filth and wickedness that lies behind it. This is the song that David writes after Nathan confronts him about his affair with Bathsheba and the state-sanctioned murder of Uriah, her husband. It just doesn’t get much worse than what David did to that family.

I feel weird when I read
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
I just am, like, dude, you stole this guy’s wife and then you had him killed. And this guy trusted you. He paid you honor and you’re over here using your power as king to take his wife as your own. God didn’t take his Holy Spirit from you, you kicked the Holy Spirit out!
Bathsheba must have despised him. He destroyed her family. He killed her first love. She must have hated him. But what could she do? He was the king. What a mess!
On the other hand, these are words of desperation. It seems arrogant of David to ask God to save him from this horrendous sin, and yet I would do the same. I, too, would be on my face. At least David knew that what he had done was evil, and he was owning up to it. 
There is so much evil and corruption today for which there is no repentance. And it’s not just out there in corporate America or government, it’s here in my heart. We would all do well to say
Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
   blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
   and cleanse me from my sin.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
   you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart,
   O God, you will not despise.
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