|The Last Supper by e. wierenga (http://www.etsy.com/shop/canvaschild)|
Church wasn’t safe for me growing up. It was a place where we all had to pretend to be something we weren’t. On the drive home each Sunday, we would all be so cranky and tired, Dad would often have to pull over and spank one of us.
I whispered my first swear word on a Sunday in that rusted old van. I felt very powerful, as though no amount of spanking or panty-house or hard-backed pews could reform this messed up girl.
Because I’d seen what church could do. It could make a person be someone they weren’t and I didn’t respect that, from a very young age. I couldn’t listen to my father standing up there at that pulpit because I knew the silent force he was in my home, the way he put ministry before family and for a long time, I lived to please him, and then I just lived to make him mad. Because then at least I could get a response from him.
And if church was God’s house then I didn’t want anything to do with God either because his house was cold and impersonal.
And I think this is where we go wrong. Church should be one of the safest, most inviting places in the world. And I don’t get why we lock our doors. Shouldn’t its doors always be open? Shouldn’t church be a place where the homeless find a home, where the wounded find healing, where the hurting find forgiveness, and the hungry find food? Shouldn’t it be the most comfortable, heavenly place on earth?
So much of what the gospel tells us is upside-down to the way we Christians actually live. So much of what Jesus says about dying to self and serving the least of these is opposite what we find in the chandeliers and glass of today’s mega-churches.
One of the most powerful ways we can reach our parishioners, I believe, is by needing grace as desperately as they do. By being open about our brokenness.
Keep in mind, I do believe the pastor and his team are called to a higher level of integrity. My father was always very integrous. He never gossiped—to the extent that he wouldn’t even share news about any of the parishioners which was indeed frustrating, but good. The congregation trusted him immensely.
However, as a child, who didn’t experience much of my father’s attention, I came to believe it meant he didn’t care.
So you want to be integrous, yes, and beyond reproach, but you also want to be approachable. You are not priests, hidden behind walls and doors and screens. No, there is only one priest—Jesus—who wept in front of his disciples. Who overthrew temple tables, who cursed the fig tree because it didn’t bear fruit, who cried when Lazarus died, who told jokes and stories, and allowed the disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath because they were hungry.
Jesus was fully human. And you are too. And the people coming to your church know this; they know you are human, that you are not divine, so don’t feel you need to put on any special airs or clothes or use different words, or hide your emotions. Be fully human—but do not sin in your humanness.
I think a lot of where we go wrong in the church, and in our Christian walk is, we live by fear, not love.
This fear is something I saw etched across my parents’ faces and I didn’t know why anyone would want to live by faith if it meant not being able to live at all. So I starved myself. I starved the fear right out of me, I starved the regiment and the rules right out, I starved out the hypocrisy and the lies and then I realized, I had nothing left. I had to be reborn.
And we all need to reach this place before we can become Christ for others. We all need to reach a point of desperation so Jesus can reach right in and save us. We all need to be reborn.
every wednesday and thursday, we gather together to celebrate redemption. here are the details:
1. link up a post (old or new) that you feel is ‘broken’ or ‘imperfect’ or somehow redemptive
2. put the ‘imperfect prose’ button at the bottom of your post, so others can find their way back here (see button code in right-hand column of my blog)
3. read other’s prose, and encourage them!
so won’t you join us, as we “walk each other home”? (ram dass)