Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Scenes of Church




(Photo from Avidly Abide on Flickr via Creative Commons license)


"Bashing the Church is in."

I read that line last week and I have kept turning it over in my head.  I'm not sure how I feel about it.  In some ways, I suppose it is "in" to bash the Church, if that's what you want to call it.  Some people might even categorize my own writing this way.  But I don't think this "bashing" is always wrong.  Honest critiques of the Church have helped it to grow and change in good ways.

Some of these critiques have come from voices that were formerly voiceless, including women and racial minorities.  As these groups have spoken up, it has been beautiful.  Together we are achieving a more robust and honest version of the Church.

Other critiques are coming from those who have been hurt and, yes, even abused in the church.  People are realizing for the first time that they weren't the only one.  That they aren't alone.  They are standing up, crying for justice, and calling for change.  Again, beautiful.  And necessary.

Yet I know what that comment was getting at.  Even though I believe that there is a place for critiquing the Church, I want to be sure that I am celebrating the Church as well.

***

After I receive my communion wine and bread, I slip out the back door and to my son's classroom.  We're always the first ones to pick up our child because we love bringing him into "big church" with us for a few minutes.

As I enter the auditorium again, communion has ended and our Church is on their feet singing.

The song at the end is always my favorite, no matter which song we're singing.  Perhaps it is because we've just finished communion or because we just heard a compelling sermon.  But I think it might have to do with the fact that my son is there.

I love holding him in my arms and singing out.  I love seeing his eyes dart around the auditorium to see friends and to watch the musicians on stage.  I love standing together as a family and worshipping.  I love living out my faith in front of my son.

***

It is just a living room.  Yet something holy is happening there this night.

"We need help."

The words are simple, yet honest.  We rally around our friends.  We corral them in love.  We pray over them.

I stand far off, keeping an eye on the little ones who have wandered into the kitchen in search of mischief.  But as I look up, I see it:  the Church.

This is what the Church looks like.  A tangle of people, surrounding those who are weak in this moment.  Our small group isn't always this way, but tonight, tonight I can feel it.  Something is happening here.  I am glad to be apart of it.

***

That night six women came together from six different days and six different lives.  It was a "come as you are" night - as long as who you are was carrying food or wine.  Usually we meet with husbands and children, but tonight it was just us.

We filled our plates, then went back for seconds.  We finished the wine and had to search for more.

We sat and talked for hours, the conversation weaving together many topics.  We talked about parenting and marriage and dating and courting.  We talked about hurting for someone and about being hurt by someone.  We spoke.  We listened.  We disagreed at times.

I said I was leaving and, over an hour later, I finally made it out the door.  As I drove home that night I thought about these women and their families and how we've gotten to know them over the past year.  Together we've broken bread, babysat children, gone through trials, celebrated accomplishments and birthdays.  We are a small part of our local church which is an even smaller part of the universal Church.  But, together, we are the Church.

***

Sitting with a friend while our toddlers play, toys strewn around the room.

I am honest.  Deeply, vulnerably, embarrassingly honest.

She listens, then talks, then prays.  She is an agent of Christ as she ushers in healing.

It doesn't look like Church.  But it is Church.

***

I reach for my phone and try to discreetly take a picture.  Again.  And again, it doesn't turn out like I planned.

Our Church is taking communion and I want to capture the beauty of these sacred moments.  People stream from their seats and approach with outstretched hands to receive the Eucharist.  And it is b e a u t i f u l.

A picture could never do it justice.

***

Today I'm celebrating scenes from Church.  Do you have any to share?

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