Monday, March 25, 2019

2019.03.24 Why Church?

In Lent we’re invited to reflect on things that matter, not on every little sin we keep on committing and committing—and once again commit. I define sin simply as whatever separates you from the goodness of God —in God, in yourself and in your neighbor. One of my sins is to be too pushy about my considered opinions, most all of which I adore and consider indispensable

This morning I told my beloved spouse that, although I’d exercised my senior exemption from fasting, I decided to fast from being ornery and bossy toward him. He said: “Don’t do that. I won’t know you’re here.” We laughed.

When one of us gets too high-falutin, the other fights back defensively, and BOOM, we’re disconnected. Then we confess and laugh and kiss, and BOOM, we’re reconnected—over and over. 

One of the things we tussle about is the Church. We have both been professional “churchies” for years. The Church seems, in many places right now, to be failing, or are we failing it? We do not settle our questions of course, but we go to Church regardless. Why? What IS the Church? What is it for? What is its unique raison d’etre? How is it different from so many things that call for our attention, some of which we’d rather be doing?

I’d like to say the Church exists to offer forgiveness for the repetition compulsion called sin. But every family knows and often exercises that function well enough. Why Church?

Is the Church about social justice?—all the rave just now. Well, in part, but not really. Anyone who is civic-minded and inclines toward activism for good causes does social justice. It’s central to the current penchant for humanism—the new true religion. Why Church?

Is the Church a building—preferably on Main Street front and center? Partly, yes. It is easy to get attached to a lovely setting, one in which you have felt safe, have experienced the love and grace of God, not to mention the pastoral care of a priest, many prayers, and those colors sparkling in the sun through stained glass. But God is not a building, though God may be felt in a building. On a religious retreat years ago, I sat enjoying a good meal. Suddenly I looked at my watch and realized I wanted to get to the chapel before dark for my meditative prayer time. I thought “I’m late for church.” Immediately, I laughed at myself, realizing: I AM in Church. And the Church is in me.

Is the Church for community?  Well, yes, but not really. We can find community in many ways, and people do because it’s naturally human to make and gather a community of concern and a team to pursue mutual interests and activities—to belong. Twelve-step recovery communities are an excellent example of intentional communities of support for wellness.

Why Church? 

My answer is that the Church is unique because the Church worships: shows reverence and adoration for a deity, a power both beyond and within ourselves, either individually or collectively. The Church is the BOOM. It offers structured liturgies, rites, rituals practices that re-enact the basic passages of human life—connected in God. I speak of the Christian Church but I know all religions offer similar rites, rituals, sacraments across a lifetime.

In Church you ae lifed—birthed in a font-womb, baptized into God with Christ.

In Church you are fed, brought to a long dining table-altar with the rest of your family. You may be an infant who doesn't take solid food so the priest blesses you; sometimes a tiney fingertip of wine is placed into your mouth. You sleep like a baby—well fed.

In Church you hear lots of music—lullabies cradle you and zestful praise awakens you. You learn some songs yourself in a choir.

In Church you absorb the divine into your flesh—over and over again.

In Church you get to pray, silently or aloud, feeling your sins and sorrows—getting forgiven over and over. You get to say I am sorry and I love you to God and to other worshipers, silently or aloud. Sometimes you get a hug.

In Church you are remembered after you die with prayers, hymns, and sweet words that soak your soul in the security of eternality.  No one forgets you. Neither does God.

In Church you re nurtured from birth to death in wonder, love and praise—over and over.

That’s why Church. Worship is as important as other things you do to take care of yourself. All living things in Nature worship without much help—naturally. We humans? We’re more needy and complicated—mysteries on our own. BOOM, we need Church.