“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”
And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” – Mark 10:17-22
The power of the western church is waning. There is no doubt of this and it is being celebrated by many as the beginning of the death of God.
Of course any real power the church has had comes only from God and so we are left with options: either God is truly waning or the power that the church is losing is not of God.
The God this church proclaims, however covered in rich robes and girded with swords, is not one who wanes.
So the reality of the western church is far more hopeful than we realize.
Like the rich young man referenced in the Gospel of St. Mark above, the church always has a choice before her – let go of the authority of humanity and in so doing obtain a new authority from Christ, or hang on to the authority the world gives her and continue on…either way Christ looks on in love…but only one path will truly transform her and the world she is a part of.
The hope of the church is that she is being impoverished of her worldly power. The hope of the church is that she will find herself poor and diseased and abandoned and in a state where she will stumble back to this Christ ashamed only to be embraced and still loved.
It is in this hope that true salvation is both sought and offered – to the church and to the world.