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Sundays & Weekdays: When the Message of Jesus Challenges the Medium of the Church

If you have ever heard me talk on religion and social media, you will know I am all-in on the prophetic-madness that was Marshall McLuhan. His signature phrase, “the medium is the message,” singularly changed the way that I have adopted, embodied, and deployed all social mediums for better part of a decade.

Screenshot from The Diocese of Atlanta (@episcopalatl) video

Recently, the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta released its #Love #growforlent video. While the quality of the video is unsurpassed, it was the message of the video in all of its texture that has caused the greatest disruption. Within hours of its release, I had several of my friends who, though deeply faith-filled in their lives, sent me texts and other messages inquiring, “So where do these people in that video go to church?” Another poked, “I mean Case, really, those people don’t go to your church. If they did, if that was what church was like, I’d likely be there.”

#ouch

There you have it: in one classy-swoop, the message of the diocesan video challenged the very medium of the church in practice itself. Now, do not get me wrong, by and large the medium of The Episcopal Church, or as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (@pb_curry) now calls us, “the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement,” is in full agreement with the words of the video. We almost all believe that we need to “love the good, bad, broken, whole in everyone.” Yet, it was the embodiment of this message, maybe even the people themselves animated on the screen that led a group of predominately “outsiders” to experience belonging in the incarnated expressions, but not in the actual establishment that matters most.

Then again, maybe this should not come as much of a surprise. After all, the mantra of many established Episcopal churches has been to “make Sunday our best.” Could it be that this mantra has led to a disconnect? Has our focus on making 1/4 of 1/7th of people’s time the “best” inadvertently led to a theology of incarnation so myopic that it is out of touch? Or worse, has the established practice of Sundays as best in many parishes led to a lived theology of disembodiment; that is to say, have we programmed our church life such that we only really expect God to interrupt the lives of people somewhere between the front door of the church on the way in, and the baptismal font on the way out?

#ouch

Ultimately I am thankful to be part of a parish and in collaboration with a Bishop (@xbishopatl) that is working to think outside the box when it comes to embodying God’s message with all God’s people – all about God’s creation. What is more, I hope that my friends, family, and neighbors will continue to challenge all of us in the Jesus Movement (#jesusmovement) to make our faith more about the real life in the real world and less about propping up the past vestiges of church in a bygone era. After all, as Bishop Andy Doyle (@texasbishop) recently hinted, though didn’t explicitly say, Jesus didn’t actually give his life for the church in all her glory, he gave it for people — for all of creation.

Oh that we the church of the next 100 years may not so much seek to be established as to be creative. For it is in having been established that we find stasis, but it will be in creating that we animate life. Or, as good ol’ McLuhan suggested in Understanding Media, “The custom built supplants the mass produced. Let us […] move our chairs closer to the fire and see what we are saying.”

My friends, welcome to the Jesus Movement.