There’s no one answer to “Why Church?”
Why do we keep on with church? When at its worst it is an instrument of exclusion, rejection, even yes, real violence … and (sometimes) at its best feels too polished and shiny like the individual silver chalice cups my former church used during communion. I can still remember the first time I stood up behind the communion table and lifted the lid off the tray expecting the typical Presbyterian plastic cups. Instead I marveled at the widening circles of goblets – each so miniature and a perfectly ornamented copy of the large communion cup next to the bread. I kind of wanted one for myself and was tempted to slip it into my pocket.
Last night on Twitter we had an incredible conversation around #whychurch, and the questions that garnered the most responses were:
“What defines church?”
“What are we trying to get out of church that we can’t get alone?”
“What is healing about church?”
I often say that the church continues to love me back to life when I walk in the valley of the shadow of death with depression #whychurch
— Rozella Haydée White (@rozellahw) October 20, 2015
— Lisa Gruenisen (@LisaGruenisen) October 20, 2015
And then #whychurch turned into #whycasserole because my wonderful partner and spouse decided to mention it, and now I think we need to write a whole new volume on a theology of casseroles to add to Calvin’s Institutes.
There’s so much more there, and going through the hashtag I feel my heart beat a little quicker, I remember why I fell in love, and what captured my soul about church, and I think, yes, I’m staying, I’m not going anywhere. Because not only do I need church…
The church needs me.
The church needs all of me. All of my failures and flaws, all of my baggage, even all of my struggles with ego and privilege because that’s where the transformation happens – in the midst of flesh-and-blood, brutal vulnerability and weakness. It happens in the woods and in the delivery room, yes, but most certainly, it was meant to happen in community, in the sanctuary, in the light of the candles, around the font and the table.
I’m – still, slowly – reading Lauren Winner’s Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, and I keep on thinking about communion:
I learn something about the elderly couple who, near the end of the Communion train, come to the rail and kneel, fragile as mushrooms. What I learn later is that for a dozen years, he has been afflicted by a wasting disease, an intestinal disease that makes it almost impossible for him to eat – he lives on Ensure and lemonade. But at the altar I don’t yet know that, I only know what I see: they each take a wafer from the priest; and when I come to them with the chalice, the wife dips as I say “The Blood of Christ keep you in everlasting life,” and she eats her wafer, and then her husband likewise instincts his round of Christ’s Body into the wine and then he hands the round of Body and Blood to his wife and she eats his wafer for him. There at the Communion rail, I don’t yet know what illness lies behind this gesture, I know only the couple’s hands and mouths, and that I am seeing one flesh. I have about this, heard sermons about a man and a woman becoming one flesh…And here at the altar, I see that perhaps this is the way I come to know such intimacy myself: as part of the body of Christ, this body that numbers among its cells and sinews an octogenarian husband and wife who are Communion. Click To Tweet
Whether it’s a meal made up of creamy soup and noodles or mashed up food and crackers or gathering around a podcast sermon. We are called to be together. Being together matters. I matter. You matter. We matter together.The church was given to us as a way to care for each other, a way to be a glimmering of heaven-on-earth and God's kingdom-come, the church is meant to be food, meant to be breath, meant to be song.Click To Tweet