Becoming More Verb than Noun

The church is: a conspiracy of love for a dying world, a spy mission into enemy occupied territory ruled by the powers of evil; a prophet from God with the greatest news the world has ever heard, the most life changing and most revolutionary institution that has existed on earth. — Peter Kreeft

In English, to me, the word “church” sounds so bland, dull. So churchy. It is used to translate the Greek word ekklesia, from whence we get words like ecclesial and ecclesiastical. Yet church does not in fact translate the meaning of ekklesia. So where does it come from? Well, in its long history, it descends through German into English from the Greek word kyriakon, “the Lord’s,” referring to the Lord’s house.

Okay, yes, the building, and the people of God who gather there, are indeed the Lord’s house, but what does the actual word ekklesia mean?

Ekklesia, which in the Greek Old Testament translates the Hebrew qahal, can be translated “assembly” or “the summoned.” But its roots in Greek are even more vivid and dynamic, with ek meaning “out” and kalein meaning “to call.” So, church is the gathering of those who have been called out to, as in 1 Peter 2:9:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

So if I playfully stitch together these two etymologies, the church is a mother who stands at the entrance of the Lord’s house and calls out, “Children! Come home! The Feast is prepared…” This virgin-mother pregnant with the divine Word, this bride made one flesh with the Bridegroom, calls out with the Spirit of Jesus to the whole of creation: “Come!” (Rev. 22:17)

So “church” is no static noun, but rather teems with all the vitality of a verbal God, a theo-dramatic action, a living invitation from heaven to earth from the prodigal Father whose mad love is our final resting place.

I’ve always wondered why, in the prodigal son parable, the mother of the sons is nowhere present. Why only the father? Well, I believe Jesus’ parable — like all of them — is an invitation to the Jewish hearers to accept their vocation, their divine “calling” to be the mother of all humanity, standing at the threshold of the Lord’s house, ceaselessly crying out on behalf of a waiting, yearning, running Father who wills that all his children in exile come home.

A great examination of conscience for me today! When homeless men and women encounter me, those living in a thousand exiles, do they find in me a faithful echo of the Father’s homecoming call? Am I the place of welcome into the house of the Father? In the final analysis, that is the vocation within every vocation, and the soul of all prayer — to hear the homecoming call, and then to stand with the Father at the threshold of welcome, crying out…

[Verse 1]
I went the ways of wayward winds
In a world of trouble and sin
Walked a long and crooked mile
Behind a million rank and file
Forgot where I came from
Somewhere back when I was young
I was a good man’s child

[Verse 2]
‘Cause I lost some nameless things
My innocence flew away from me
She had to hide her face from my desire
To embrace forbidden fire
But at night I dream
She’s singing over me
Oh, oh, my child

[Chorus 1]
Come on home, home to me
And I will hold you in my arms
And joyful be
There will always, always be
A place for you at my table
Return to me

[Verse 3]
Wondering where I might begin
Hear a voice upon the wind
She’s singing faint but singing true
Son, there ain’t nothing you can do
But listen close and follow me
I’ll take you where you’re meant to be
Just don’t lose faith

[Verse 4]
So I put my hand upon the plow
Wipe the sweat up from my brow
Plant the good seed along the way
As I look forward to the day
When at last I see
My Father run to me
Singing oh, my child

[Chorus 2]
Come on home, home to me
And I will hold you in my arms
And joyful be
There will always, always be
A place for you at my table
Return to me
My child

[Chorus 3]
Come on home, home to me
And I will hold you in my arms
And joyful be
There will always, always be
A place for you at my table
At my table
At my table
Return to me

This entry was posted in Faith.

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