Sunday, November 13, 2011


I’ll call you after church, I said.

Oh, you still do that? my son said with the delicious innocence of the mildly churched.

Yes, I still go to church even though it’s not my job any more, I said.

Then I wondered why DO I go to church—really?

I know I don’t HAVE to go and often I’d much rather stay home than brave the subway and whatever vicissitudes of weather have arisen overnight unexpectedly. BUT I trudge on, part duty, part habit, part spiritual need.

In church I look for two experiences both spiritual and both commonly identified as signs of the presence of God: transformation from within and a feeling of unity from without.

A transformative experience can be as simple as a mood change and as complex as a theological insight. Like just recently realizing that Jesus did not flip his miracle-making gesture so a few loaves of bread became enough to feed thousands, he just had compassion, recognized hunger, told them to sit down in small groups, invoked a blessing of God, and told the crowd to count on being filled.

Obviously symbolic and eucharistic, the story newly struck me as good advice for an anxious church hungry for growth. Have compassion, the Spirit will grow within you if you just sit down, stop gawking at a guru for miracles, and begin a conversation. That’s transformation, growth from within on COMMON ground.

I confess a chuckle noticing that the story claims to feed 4-5000 men “besides women and children.” But who knows how much the thinking-ahead women stuffed into their outsized satchels, just in case anyone got hungry along the way? :)

A unitive experience? It’s standing around the altar area with some 30 other Jesus followers to receive consecrated bread and wine from a COMMON plate and a COMMON cup, gifts of one deity COMMON to us all. I feel God calling us to participate in COMMON prayer, be more aware of our COMMON humanity and act accordingly to assure the COMMON good.

I can get such experiences elsewhere but I can count on getting them in church where the Spirit connects me with divinity-in-humanity through worship, song and sacrament— IN God and IN common.

Oh yes, I also go to church to worship Godde, the transcendent mystery who both loves me with an intimacy so acute as to be almost threatening if I let it, and who is completely other and beyond— IN whom WE live and move and have COMMON being.