Sunday, December 11, 2011

Longing for Messiah

The pastor was calling us to do something.

He was asking us to actively seek.

He was inferring that perhaps, with all the craziness all around us, all the busyness, all the hullabaloo, we might actually need to be a little more intentional about listening for the story of advent, the voice of God, the word of light.  We might actually need to, I don't know, turn things off.  Take time away.  Create space.  He didn't call us to a fast per se.  But he did ask us to write down a specific thing we might do in order to, you know, listen.

Good for him.

Normally I would be elated and affirmed in the chance to delight over the church community moving in sync with that which the Spirit is moving in me.  This time, however, I was just a little annoyed.

"Really? Ya think?" is what I found myself thinking.  It was more a rueful sentiment than any kind of bitterness.  It was like I had been out gathering wood for the winter when, at the first sign of snow, my neighbor finally poked his head out and said, "Oh, I guess we should get ready for cold weather, huh?"

I suppose.  If one were going to do something like that, yes, this would be a good time.  Though frankly, and I say this without malice: It's a little late.  The wood will be cold and a little damp now - not that you can't dry it and use it.  But ... what were you thinking???

It's like being a vegetarian and having someone come up to you and say, "That seems like a neat idea. I'm going to be a vegetarian for a week."  You might think, "Good for you."  But you might also kind of roll your eyes and get back to your life.

Because for you it IS a life.

As soon as the pastor made the call to response, my spirit rejoiced in the sacred, communal moment that followed, as if it was saying ...


And that's when it hit me.

O God how I miss sacred community.

How I miss the reverent among the mundane, the divine in the midst of the ordinary, the transcendent among the broken, the beautiful alongside the normal.

I miss the Concert of Prayer.  I miss the prayer walks.  I miss the brothers and sisters who sat on the floor in the Westside Room, late afternoon sun streaming through the wall of windows, and wept over each other's lives.  We were the church to each other. Once.  I miss the 'liturgical service' and I miss the band.  I miss the place where I could go to worship and be a part.  I miss the crazy people whose lives were a freaking mess but who actually heard God's voice and it changed them.

I haven't left my church but I wonder if my heart has.  I do not find worship there anymore.  I find wonderful people, beautiful people, even.  But I do not find the Spirit of God moving in and among them communally, whispering over their lives and hearts, disrupting things.

A friend made this observation: "People don't go to your church to get real," she said.  "They go there to hide."

At first I cracked the comment up to the usual accusation of hypocrisy in the church.  (In case you haven't noticed, hypocrisy is human nature.  Most people are duplicitous.  Most of us hide, and often that hiding can be and is appropriate in some ways.  But that's a different story.)  Then I dismissed it because, well, if people REALLY wanted to hide, why would they go to church at all?  They could just stay home.  It seemed a bit of a non sequitur.  But as I thought about it, I realized that it was true.   I don't hear people practicing a whole lot of confession at my church (though it does happen here and there).  People don't come to my church and bare their souls or expose their brokenness, you know?  They don't seem to come to be particularly real or messy or present. What does one do with that?  What does one do about it?

Maybe it is happening elsewhere.  Maybe it is supposed to happen elsewhere and my pining is more a reflection of what is lacking in my life than what is lacking in my church.  And I love the people at my church.  But this is where my advent journey has left me...

Still longing for Messiah.