Church…I dont’ know where the book is going or what other stories Nadia will tell, but at this point what is clear is the realization of the meaning of ‘community’. For me, the word ‘church’ comes to mind.
I didn’t really go to church growing up…I sorta did…but not really. I grew up in a small town…a VERY small town. The kind of town where when it was time for me to come in from playing my mom would open the front door and yell my name at the top of her longs. No matter where I was in town, I would hear her and make my way home…small, small town.
The churches in this particular small town, at least from the memory and perspective of a then ten year old kid, were not all that welcoming to a single mom and her long haired, violin playing son. I didn’t play sports or hunt or do much of anything other than be the kid who learned to play the violin in the Suzuki Method (whatever that means…right?). I never really felt like I fit in.
It was a bit of a paradox really. It was clear to me even at that age, that the churches in general weren’t all that welcoming of my small family. Yet, on the other hand, people looked out for me in ways you wouldn’t necessary expect. Across the street from me was a boy one year older than me named Chad. Chad reminded me of the “Fonz” from Happy Days. This kid was simply ‘cool’ in every way (or at least I thought so).
I think you can already tell that I was the kid that was picked on because I was in music and didn’t own camouflage. My mom was a teacher. All this and more meant I was fair game….unless Chad was going to hear about it. I don’t know how much of my memory has twisted into some grand mythology of the past or how much of it is actual truth, but I do know that on some level Chad protected me from time to time. He was a friend. He, against all odds and reason, accepted me just the way I was and looked out for me.
Even now, as a pastor, I struggle with ‘what church is’. Is it a place for gathering? Learning the bible? Communion? Baptism? Music? Pot-lucks? Is it a place where people come and change to be more like those who are already there? Is it a safe place for our kids? Is it a place where we remember and honor those that put in the fifth pew on the left side with the gold plated marker on it that says “in memory of…”? Is it the place where we claim we are right about our view of who God is and what God wants? Or is it something else? Is it more than our theology and music and even more than our sacraments? (I hope I don’t lose my job for that last question)
Maybe ‘church’ is a bit more like the best of both worlds that Nadia describes in this chapter and maybe it has something to do with my experience of Chad in that small town.. Maybe it isn’t a ‘place’ but more of a community. A community that doesn’t judge, that accepts people just as they are, that looks out for each other, that protects each other, lifts each other up when they are down, support each other…
If we believe that salvation is granted in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and that “it is finished”…then maybe isn’t about salvation at some point in the future, but more about a ‘salvation’ here…now…without waiting for death, but ushering in the Kingdom now…that ‘God’s will’ will be done on earth as it is in heaven…maybe church is simply a community who reminds itself and the world that God saved in in Jesus and does so not by preaching, singing, liturgy, reading, etc…but simply by looking out for each other and accepting everyone…community…
…the Spirit can do the rest..