Category Archives: church

My Story, part 13

The second most important sermon that I have heard happened as best I recall before we were married even. We joined my soon to be in-laws at the church we would later be married in, and our child baptized in, and so on. I don’t think it was a holiday; I don’t know why we went to church. The pastor preached on how going to church is a counter-cultural thing to do, a rebellious thing to do. It seems like an act of “being good” or worse of “looking like a good person”. But in reality, to sincerely worship and belong to a church is to be completely counter to the norms. It puts God first, even if just one hour.  It is an intention to connect with others. It is denying the world’s value of “winning” for God’s value of “loving”.

And it is a hard thing to do. It is so much easier to just sleep in, read the paper, go for a run, drink some coffee, go out to eat, work in the garden….You don’t get points for showing up and God doesn’t love you more, because you don’t earn love. Going to church is hard. And people can be very annoying.

Translating the feeling of being beloved by God into the action of going to church — and doing this nearly every week even when our kid was little — was not always easy, and rarely fun, and sometimes deeply boring.

What takes it to an even deeper level is “keeping Sabbath”. So all week, for six days, you do what you do, plus you get done errands and chores that might otherwise need to be done on Sunday. And you prepare your clothes for Sunday. And you figure out what you are going to feed people after, how to make that special — pancakes, or french toast, or eggs or …. Having it all ready.

So every Sunday is a party. Every Sunday is a huge break from endless daily chores, from earning our keep.

Actually, for me “Sunday” starts about 4pm on Saturday and ends about 4pm on Sunday when I start prepping for Monday again.

But “keeping Sabbath” brings some delight back into merely living. And every single time I go to church I think: I’m being a rebel. I’m being counter-cultural. I’m saying we are each of us valuable and connected to each other because She loves us.

FTGOG

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Holy Saturday, Happy Easter

I realized that I have no profound words to offer today, so then I realized: let’s use other people’s. I went searching for John Updike’s poem “Seven Stanzas on Easter” because it is perfect. I found it plus this blog entitled “In the Meantime”, so I’m just going to share the link, because it is excellent.

Happy Easter y’all! May it be green with hope and alive with wonder.

My Story 9, Halloween

Okay I truly absolutely hate Halloween. I realize that is almost un-American. I hate horror movies, costumes, parties, fireworks, everything about it. My brother and I went through a haunted house when I must have been about 12 and he would have about 10? And we were so scared by the end we held hands and ran out of there. I do like the little tiny trick or treaters of course. But in my last post I mentioned that children, in general, just seem to find me off their radar. I can just never think of anything to say. (Except my own child of course.)

But then last year’s Halloween happened. In the midst of a very very busy year at work, in life, I somehow agreed to tell ghost stories at the brand-new first-ever “Trunk-or-Treat” event that my church held. They found the ghost stories for me, I found a nice quiet spot in the graveyard, managed to hide my jet lag and migraine more or less, and people seemed to enjoy it all.

But in the back of my mind, I had an itch. I knew that I knew an awesome wonderful ghost story and I just couldn’t remember it. I could remember that it was a family camping trip and family friends were also at the campground, there was a campfire, and my dad’s friend, Mr. Somebody, told a story. And it was scary and creepy and at the end we were all rolling around laughing so hard, young and old. And I could not remember the story.

Anyway “Trunk-or-Treat” was wrapping up, and I had two boys show up about 5th or 6th grade? And I told my little ghost stories. The more talkative said, “Well, you did pretty good with that story but next year you need to find some better ones.”

I said, “Okay I’ll work on that.”

He said, “I could tell a story.”

I said, “Okay!”

And he told the story that Mr. Somebody had told! He told me the very story I was trying to remember! And he did a great job.

I’m not going to type it all out — but what a gift! What a wonderful miracle to have a tiny bit of childhood given back to me. And I had a good time chatting with these boys who were very funny. Their mom thanked me as we all stood up to go, but I said to her the thanks were all mine.

And I guess I have one story all ready for next year.

FTGOG

My story 7 and the resurrection of the body

Recently I have been watching a Netflix show called “Altered Carbon” that, while intriguing, is not really the fun science fiction experience I was hoping for — it is nothing like the Expanse. In the “Altered Carbon”  world (based on books by Richard K. Morgan that I have never read), your brain is “backed up” started at one year old on a disk implanted in the neck. If your body dies, then your disk can be implanted into another body (if you can afford it) — so, for example, your grandmother can come to Halloween dinner in the “sleeve” or meatsuit of a biker dude. Rich people never need to die. While the story is basically a crime noir tale, I found myself thinking about the resurrection of the body.

All my life I have been terrified of dying; among other aspects I don’t want to float around like a ghost. I don’t want to watch this world from “heaven”, like some sad pathetic soap opera. I don’t want to be snuffed out like a candle flame either. I don’t want the “City of God” with the river and the tree of life to just mean more cleaning and more committee meetings…. As a kid, discovering that someday in billions and billions of years our sun will go nova and destroy the Earth (if it isn’t already by then) was rather shattering. The whole multi-verse thing of physics — maybe there’s some hope.

But here’s the thing — we are not just brains. We are not just souls. We are a something like an ecosystem. Our hormones, our nutrition, our gut biology, our brain chemistry, our health, our ancestors, our actions, our attitude — everything plays a role in who I am. Without this specific body, I am no longer me. (Or maybe I am in for a surprise someday!)

As the time ahead of me seems to be less than the time so far, resurrection of the body seems to me a creed that allows for hope. Me, only healed. Me, in my body, fully human. Putting “me” into the body of a biker dude would fundamentally change who I am.

This creed and church tradition had nothing at all to do with my becoming a Christian.

And yet it is increasingly something I think about, that has crept up on me with a strange acceptance. Death is a mystery; afterlife is at best a hope. Yet every time we say the creed at church I increasingly am saying it from my heart: I believe in the resurrection of the body. Whatever the ultimate answers are, I like that this creed is a part of my faith life, like a strange little extra gift, like the gift you have to keep so you put it on a shelf and then one day you pick it up and think, huh, this could be beautiful, couldn’t it?

 

 

Interrupted by ancient Greeks

I recently read in Smithsonian magazine about Bryan Doerries’, “Theater of War productions” bare-bones readings of ancient Greek tragedies that have helped vets and their families come to terms with the multiple and ongoing tragedies of war. His production of Antigone in Ferguson, Mo., helped connect black and white, police and non-police. The power of ancient tragedies still works.

Googling, there was a similar story about a year ago in The New Yorker that I missed.

There is so much similar — that I never had words for before — about my experience of “telling” the Bible versus just reading or studying it.

*The connection with history. We are not isolated in time from humanity before us, there is a connection to make and feel.

*Understanding the historical context of these Greek tragedy plays — an era of war, an era of huge bloodshed, and the context that the plays were written, performed, by and for and to soldiers. What is the comfort in tragedy?

*Truth telling builds trust and connection. Storytelling connects people, and perhaps heals people.

In the Smithsonian article, writer Jeff MacGregor says “What did Sophocles know that we don’t? That drama, live theater, can be a machine for creating empathy and community.”  Further, he writes “…there is something profoundly lonely in modernity, something isolating and dislocation. Maybe sitting in the same room with other humans who suffer and speak is comfort enough. Maybe enough to save us.”

And that is what I seek in church. That is what my soul longs for, to connect, and for church to be that conduit. And Scripture to be the narrative text and context for that connection and that meaning — and the healing.

From the website of Theater of War, it says “Each reading has been followed by a town-hall style audience discussion, which has been facilitated with the help of military community members. These have been arresting, emotionally charged events, in which service members have spoken openly about their experiences in combat and at home. To date, over 80,000 service members, veterans, and their families have attended and participated in Theater of War performances and discussions.”

Church, yes? “For while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”

Let’s pray for peace.