I recently read Sara Miles "Take This Bread", the fascinating and moving account of how Christian commitment crept up on her from nowhere. She was brought up as an atheist, her parents having rebelled against the missionary upbringing that they had both received. They passed on their atheism to their daughter, which she happily pursued, until one day she wandered into a church near where she lived and found herself taking Communion. She had wandered into the church out of interest - and found herself becoming part of the community there. As she herself puts it: "... and then something outrageous and terrifying happened. Jesus happened to me. "
I particularly like the comment she makes in the book's preface about what I would want to refer to as 'real church'. She writes - and I find this both helpful and challenging - "Faith for me didn't provide a set of easy answers or certainties. It raised more questions than I was ever comfortable with. The bits of my past - family, work, war, love - came apart as I stumbled into church, then reassembled, through the works communion inspired me to do, into a new life centred on feeding strangers: food and bodies, transformed. I wound up not in what church people like to call "a community of believers" - which tends to be code for "a like-minded club" - but in something huger and wilder than I had ever expected: the suffering, fractious, and unboundaried body of Christ."
I worry that too often we let our churches become those clubs for the like-minded - and I am absolutely convinced that God has a much bigger vision that includes some pretty challenging stuff. We really need to discover those 'huger and wilder' things that God has in store for the church. That will include suffering, just as Jesus went the way of the Cross. It involves unity, but also diversity. The Church can, and ought to, be fractured (fractious) in more ways than one. And in the Church we really must cross all sorts of boundaries. We are the 'unboundaried body of Christ.'