One of Friedman’s Fables concerns a spider named Ms. Mary Muffet who “spun a perfect web containing absolutely regular polygons.” When Ms. Muffet noticed the symmetry and beauty of her web, she became enamored with it. So much so that when a fly would get caught in the web, she would immediately extract the aberration and carefully restore the web to its original beauty. (Bob Kaylor preached on this story yesterday: read it HERE – listen to it HERE).
Ms. Muffet eventually starved to death. The web she had spun as a means to catch flies had become the end in itself.
We have all done it. We landed a great job that would allow us to better support our families. Soon the job becomes so consuming that it keeps us from our families. We go to school to learn and grow, and grades help us mark our progress. Then, for some, the grades demand our focus while the learning and growing become secondary. We plan a vacation to recharge our batteries, then while on vacation we become consumed with all there is to do and see. When we return home we claim to need a vacation from our vacation.
When that happens, the means has become the end. We have become enamored with the web. We have lost the plot, to borrow a phrase from Rob Bell.
Some have said this is what has happened to the church. I tend to agree. Our energy and resources appear to be more focused on the maintenance of the institution rather than radical living out of the Kingdom of God. We’ve become arbiters of orthodoxy rather than physicians for the broken (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17). We are seen as doomsayers rather than proclaimers of Good News (gospel = ‘good news’). We are perceived as wet-blankets rather than those fanning the passionate flame of the Holy Spirit. We talk more about death than the abundant life that Jesus promised (John 10:10). In the words of Friedman we keep extracting flies and repairing webs, or, in the words of Jesus, straining gnats and swallowing camels (Matthew 23:24).
The time has come for the church to return to our first love (Revelation 2:4), to understand once again that the church is a means and not the end. We need to remember that the church was created to be the body of Christ, the Kingdom community, those assembled to work toward “on earth as it is in heaven.” Our focus is not to be on the web but rather the sheep without a shepherd, the harvest ripe for harvesting, the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters. The time has come for the church to be willing to risk our institutions for the sake of the Kingdom. Amen?