No...this isn't a post about Scout. She is still so young that she doesn't bark much. It's about tree bark. That crusty, rough, hardened exterior that protects the green flesh and sticky sap that gives a tree life.
Some recent posts by Steve Norris on Eugene Petersons' Eat This Book (another title I have yet to open), had me digging through my blogging archives to resurrect this section from an interview with Eugene Peterson in the March 2005 issue of Christianity Today, (p. 45).
He was asked by the interviewer, "So how should we envision the Christian life?" A better question, admittedly than my "ideal church" one, but it gets to the same point. Peterson then describes a "miserable" Norwegian Lutheran church with the words, "it wasn't a very nice service, it just was just not very good worship." He then describes how this small, mostly elderly population cares for single mothers in their midst.
The interviewer asks: "But many Christians wood look at this church and say it's dead, merely an institutional expression of the faith."
Peterson responds: "What other church is there besides institutional? There's nobody who doesn't have problems with the church because there is sin the church. But there is no other place to be a Christian except the church... I really don't understand this naive criticism of the institution. I really don't get it.
Frederick Von Hugel said the institution of the church is like the bark on the tree. There's no life in the bark. It's dead wood. But it protects the life of the tree within. And the tree grows and grows and grows. If you take the bark off, it's prone to disease, dehydration, death.
So, yes, the church is dead but it protects something alive. And when you try to have a church without bark, it doesn't last long. It disappears, gets sick, and it's prone to all kinds of disease, heresy and narcissism."