My entire life I have heard pastors and Bible teachers quip about what would happen if Jesus came to church.
Sometimes the “if Jesus came to church” scenario pictures Jesus showing up and turning over tables. Sometimes Jesus shows up as an unidentified homeless man, likely shunned by the average churchgoer. Sometimes preachers even quip that “if Jesus came again today, we’d crucify him all over again.”
I have occasionally used that last one in a sermon. Instead of crucifying him, however, we would execute him by lethal injection after assassinating his character in the media, spreading conspiracy stories online, indicting him on trumped-up charges and then icing him on death row for 30 years.
What would actually happen if Jesus came to church? I’m sure we would kick him out, but not before he turned over a few tables. On second thought, I’m not sure that the symbolic action of turning over tables would get the message across to American Church today. It’s not nearly dramatic enough.
No, if Jesus came to church today, he might turn over tables (probably those nice ones in the sanctuary foyer), but then he would break them apart with a sledge hammer and use them for firewood for homeless persons left outside in the cold.
If Jesus came to the church today, he would dismantle the pews one by one, removing them from the sanctuary, so that people could stand instead of sit. Jesus would much rather his church actually stand for something than pad lazy bottoms with cushy-upholstery. The idea that people actually argue over the quality and color of the upholstery would make him nauseous. He would have us walking out and going forth rather than sitting back and soaking up.
If Jesus came to church today, he would strip the walls and ceilings of all the bronzed and gilded adornments. After he melted them down with the fire he built, he would sell the metal and give the proceeds to the poor.
If Jesus came to church today, he would tear the bulletin in two. The only order of worship in heaven goes something like “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:8,11). In heaven, there are no last-minute “Pastor, can you make an announcement about. . .” conversations or preludes.
“I’m not sure that the symbolic action of turning over tables would get the message across to American Church today. It’s not nearly dramatic enough.”
If Jesus came to church today, he would say something like “let the little children come unto me.” But he wouldn’t stop there. He would add, “Let the refugee come unto me,” “Let the drug addict come unto me,” “Let the alcoholic come unto me,” “Let the immigrant come unto me,” “Let the LBGTQIA+ person come unto me,” “Let the conservative come unto me,” “Let the progressive come unto me.” Whoever we shun, whoever we silence, whoever we “other,” whoever we judge – Jesus invites into the circle.
If Jesus came to church today he would start a churchwide recycling program and lead the congregation to adopt solar energy. As the divine agent of creation itself, how could Jesus not care about the earth and its inhabitants? He would shake his head in wonderment and frustration at all who turn a blind eye towards the pressing need for creation care, sometimes using the Bible to justify their arguments. He would change the stewardship sermon series from being about counting beans to counting the cost of raping creation with our consumerism and lust for cultural dominance.
If Jesus came to church today, he would undoubtedly cancel most of the “come-to-us” events – the Easter-bunny, bouncy-house, pumpkin-patch, trunk-or-treat-candy festivals. He would wonder what people don’t understand about “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). Any cross-carrying, cost-counting, life-laying-down sacrifice going on at the annual dunk-a-pastor, touch-a-truck, Christian-wrestling, monster-truck, BMX-expo “outreach” events?
If Jesus came to church today, he would get funny looks for not wearing a tie, or not being white, or not knowing all the words to our favorite hymns. After all, Amazing Grace” wasn’t written in Aramaic. For that matter, he’d probably get the cops called on him for having olive skin, a beard and a head covering – and for saying “Allah” instead of “God.” Oh, those pesky immigrants who flee violence, starvation and oppression in search of freedom, but haven’t bothered to learn English!
On second thought, would Jesus come to church today? If he did, the end result of execution by lethal injection would probably be out of the question. With our concealed weapons permit in our wallets and loaded handguns in our holsters, we’d probably shoot him in “self-defense” before the police arrived.