Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Remind me...why do we go to church, again?

Why do you go to church? I asked the Affirmands and their mentors that question on Sunday. Of course I told the Affirmands that I know many of them may feel like they don't have much of a choice in the matter because their parents bring them, so I suggested they answer as if they did feel like they had a choice...as if they could imagine having a choice.

It turned into one of those sacred moments as we went around the table, one of those times in which the air feels electric with Presence, when people are reaching inside themselves and bringing out something raw and tender that they don't often expose to the light of day. It was a godly moment, as my 14 year old Hannah might say. "Godly" is one of her new favorite words. It's one of her "bits," she uses. ("Bits" being her word for her ongoing schticks.) For example, we have a table in our house that is covered with crosses we've collected from travels in Mexico. There's one Zoe brought back from Ecuador too. And Hannah calls this our "godly table." It sounds funny the way she says it, as it's meant to. I know on some level she loves this table of crosses. And on another she is embarrassed to love it, embarrassed to be a person who goes to church, who has a mother who collects crosses. She loves our family and at the same time feels weird and different from her friends to be a part of a family that believes in God and prays and sings songs about Jesus and goes to church regularly. All of that is encapsulated in the way she calls this our "godly" table.

So we had one of Hannah's "Godly" moments on Sunday. Beautiful and truthful and spirit-filled, and also slightly awkward and embarrassing. Stripping away our cool facades for a moment or two to say what we are hungry for at God's feast.

The community. The music. To be reminded of God's values. To pray with other people. To participate in an alternate reality. To get a little taste of heaven. For beauty. For love. Out of longing. These are the reasons we show up on a Sunday morning. It almost hurt to say it out loud...to admit to ourselves and each other the deep need that brings us together, the need and the love and the hope.

As I was planning for our Affirmation meeting this past week I thought perhaps we'd do a recipe poem about church with the group. The discussion went long so we never got to it, but on Saturday night, as I was preparing I wrote a recipe poem about church, just to see where it might take us. I liked what it brought out of me. It's kind of a godly poem, I think.

Recipe for Church

Take two or more people stirred by something.
Or Someone.
Mix them together with a pinch of mystery.
Ladle in their stories, their particular sorrows,
Their thinly sliced joy,
And sweet sprinkles of hope.
Fold their hands in prayer.
Then bring their hands together, layer them gently.
Cut through the false pretenses, all the lies they tell themselves and each other, all the ways they pretend to have it together, peel away the layers they use to keep each other at bay.
Add heat.
Don’t be afraid to burn this.
It’s not your job to control this.
When it’s done…

Wait, how will you tell when it’s done?

Things will rise.
The aroma will fill the room.
You may suddenly hear the dusting of music, music so beautiful it makes you want to crylaughcry.
Go with it.
You may also notice angels, swirling, cresting like meringue.

When it’s done, place in the bowl of heaven.
Serve immediately to the world.
They’re waiting for a taste of this.