Today’s readings present the Church as a democratic assembly rather than as a top-down organization.
The first reading tells how believers in Antioch were divided over the question of the need for Gentile converts to observe kosher. They selected Paul and Barnabas to represent them at a meeting in Jerusalem for ironing the matter out. Verse 3 of Chapter 15 says, “They were sent on their journey by the Church.” Paul and Barnabas were not deciding on the course to be taken. No, the people were sending them. Then, the Greek word they used for “Church” was interesting. It was ecclesias. The word literally means “those called out.” It was the word used in fully democratic cities like Athens. There, all citizens were “called out” to vote on matters of concern to all. It is interesting that the early Church was open.
Then, John in his Gospel uses a democratic image for the church. The images St. Paul used each had a major role for the leaders. Like, he compared the organization we call the church to a church building in which Jesus is the roof, we are the bricks, and the leaders are the foundation. Then, in his body image Jesus is the head, we are the cells, and the leaders are the nerves and tendons. In John’s image Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, with no leaders in between, dolling out their sap.