The church calls me to my best self, the Eden self, the person God created me to be. In church I shed my old skin, shuffle off the hurtful and ugly like cicada husks hiding with the dust bunnies under the pews.
I wriggle off that judgment that doesn’t fit anymore, or that idea of God that ended up being way too small, and I’m given something else. A second chance. Some grace which I may or may not find amazing at the time. It’s like I take off the burlap sack and get to put on a cashmere robe. And then someone hands me a cookie and a cup of fair trade coffee.
Church, and worship in particular, shapes me. It forms the pattern of my days: quiet reflection, expressions of gratitude, responding to challenges and teachings, spontaneous song. People in need and people in joy.
I haven’t been at church for a month but I have been with church and in church. More cards than I can count. More prayers than I know of. Books and magazines. Food, food, and more food. People who take me out for a walk. People who tell me not to worry about it. People who say they miss me.
I miss them, and I miss worship, which for me is the core of church. On a usual Sunday when it’s time I zip up my robe and adjust my stole and get the microphone clipped on. We pastors say a prayer together, and I pick up my papers and we head down the stairs and make our way through the sanctuary to the back.
And then the acolytes’ wicks are lit, and we start down the aisle. We sit down and while the prelude finishes, I look out at the congregation, at the church. There they are, the saints and sinners, my sisters and brothers and friends. There they are, the sick, the grieving, the joyous, the angry, the wondering, the frazzled, the bored. There they are, the sinews and ligaments and bones and muscles and cells of the body of Christ. There they are, the church, surrounded by stained glass and pews and unbelievable music all of which adorn the church but aren’t church. The people are church.
In the next hour we sing and pray and listen and speak. Hopefully we laugh. Often at least one person cries. And when we leave after the benediction and postlude, and make our way home after a cup of tea or a meeting or lunch with the usual crowd, we take church to the streets, to our homes and work places and schools and the neighborhood. We present the pattern to the world: reflection, gratitude, response, song; hope. Church doesn’t need a building, though that makes it convenient. Church needs people who are willing to say something about God and something about living as human beings and then figuring out the rest together.
We the church don’t always get it right but when we do, it’s pretty incredible. Life-giving and life-saving. Amen and amen.