WordPress tells me that this is my story space. I’m going to take advantage of that. In the past nearly 40 years, Joel and I have belonged to nine different churches. Sounds like a large number. Mostly we have moved on because we moved lock stock and barrel. (Why does that sound like a gun??) but a couple of times, we have just slipped off. We have always gone to a Presbyterian Church and not felt a need for something different.
About a year ago, we unhooked ourselves from all the responsibilities that we had in the inner-city church plant that we have been part of for nearly 10 years. We just wanted a break. At the time, I was tutoring a child who is reading Black Beauty. Did you ever read Black Beauty? I found it frustrating when I was young, the horse going from good situation to bad to good too bad, etc. but reading it again I felt like the horse represented those who can’t speak for themselves. They just get whatever gets dished out to them. In one situation, the horse has a good, but hard-working master who was a taxi driver in London. The driver had gotten enough clients that he can take Sunday off and spend the day with his family and go to church. This pleases his wife to no end and it gives the horse a break from the hard, daily labor. One day, one of his wealthiest clients tells him that he would like him to take his wife to church on the other side of the city on Sunday. The taxi driver demurred, mentioning that his wife really likes when he has it off and he’ll ask her but he’s not optimistic. She’s furious about the clients wife wanting service from her husband on the one day that he has off. She insists that the woman has plenty of places to go to church without being driven.
It made me wonder. I know I live in a church dense city. It’s not very big. I generally know what close to me but what do I really know? I started looking at websites to see what they would say about themselves. There is a big, old Lutheran Church about 2 1/2 blocks away and on their mission statement they said they are here to proclaim the Word. I had always thought that it was more or less a club for people who thought they were good citizens and went to church on Sunday. So…. we decided to check it out. It has been renewing to us from the very first time. We hear the Gospel preached every Sunday. We hear people , young and old, sing heartily around us. We see the young embraced and the old looked after. We see them stepping up to serve the community around them, even if they don’t live here. Sometimes I want to stand up and say, “I have a confession to make. I have lived practically down the street from here for nearly 10 years and I didn’t think you knew Jesus!” I get teary every time we share the Lord’s Supper an usher comes to our pew and opens the door (church was built in the 1730s so each pew has a door. It kept in the heat in the old days) and invites us and when we go forward – and kneel- someone says to each individual by name, “This is Christ’s body/ blood which was broken/ shed for you.” There is a surge of family feeling as we gather round. And the music is Always wonderful.
My daughter and SIL have had a parallel experience. In fact , about a year earlier, we were sitting in a coffee shop in their town and I said, ” Don’t you want to take a month of Sundays and find out what is going on in these churches nearby? We think we know, but we don’t really. We never go to them. ” my SIL high-fived me. At first, my daughter and I were calling/ texting each other every Sunday. One Sunday we had each taken a photo of a hymn we were singing and texted them!
Often when I am listening I wonder why in the world we are so divided in our little denominational boxes. I can’t for the life of me figure out what is so different we don’t share in worship. It is so profound, I feel like I am hit in the chest. At the same time , I know a feeling of caution before saying that I am going to a Lutheran church, because I feel that I will get branded as someone who has left the faith. I most certainly have not. We are missing out.
There’s a Wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea,
There’s a kindness in God’s justice
Which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up on heaven,
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgment given.