Wednesday, March 10, 2010

lenten journal: what the kids said

I can’t say I have ever heard God speak out loud, but I think I’ve come close.

Whatever God’s voice actually sounds like, I think I come close to hearing it when our children lead worship. Last Sunday, they led our call to worship by lining up in front of the Communion table and singing with holy gusto:

I am the church you are the church
we are the church together
all who follow Jesus all around the world
we are the church together
the church is not a building
the church is not a steeple,
the church is not a resting place
the church is a people
we're many kinds of people
with many kinds of faces
all colors and all ages
from all times and places
and when the people gather
there's singing and there's praying
there's laughing and there's crying
sometimes, all of it saying
I am the church you are the church
we are the church together
all who follow Jesus all around the world
we are the church together
Their singing was evidence of the Incarnation, shown in the abandon with which they inhabited the words they sang and the tenacity of their hand gestures; they weren’t fooling around. As they began our Communion service, they called us to incarnate our faith not only as we passed the Bread and the Cup, but also as we passed the Peace during the service and as we passed the snacks at Coffee Hour. I could hear them singing again as I read the words of Augustine at lunch today, quoted by Nora Gallagher:
You are the body of Christ and its members. . . . It is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord’s table. And it is to what you are that you reply. Amen. (23)
“The Word became flesh,” John says at the beginning of his gospel. Paul’s use of the body of Christ as the metaphor for the church suggests the Word stayed flesh. As Mary Oliver says, “The Spirit likes to dress up like this: ten fingers, ten toes, shoulders, and all the rest.” We are the Church, the Body, the Word still made flesh: Love with skin on. Together, that is.

I love the line in the song that says, “The church is not a resting place.” I remember my father telling a story years ago of a person leaving church one Sunday morning and telling him they would not be back. “I don’t come to church to be made uncomfortable,” they said. If we are the church, then we are not only Love with skin on, but also Pain and Grief and Hope and Joy and Despair incarnate. We are people deciding to be together, which means to be both comforted and uncomforted. It means we ought to be looking at one another and at our world with the same holy gusto with which our children sang.

Though Gallagher had changed subjects somewhat as I moved on to the next chapter, I found a connection between Augustine’s admonition and her thoughts on prayer:
I have always been wary of the “surrender to God” school of prayer, which seems to make one more passive than is necessary in a relationship that doesn’t seem to encourage passivity. (39)
Listening is not a passive act. If I’m paying attention – attending to my life – I am engaged and alive. “Be still and know that I am God” is not a call to being a blessed blob, but a direction for discernment and intentionality.

Be still and know.
Come and see.
Take and eat.

Together, we inhabit the Mystery, we incarnate the Love: we are the Church. Together.


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