God. Me. Conversations. Arguments. Questions.
Good Friday. Black Friday. Crucifixion Day. The day that splits human history. Such an important and powerful day for all of humanity. We Christians know it to be this important. Jesus dies today, rises Sunday and we get eternal life. What could be greater?
Somehow, today I am feeling impoverished within this context, this context of my religion. I usually despise the word religion because religion is to me about the external practices and labels and prescribed trappings which everyone can see. Ever since I came to know and commit to Jesus I have been much more interested in faith which seems to me to be about the internal, the private, the “real” stuff that is between one’s self and one’s Creator. So often it feels like religion is more about show but faith is about relationship.
But! Last night I felt how my religion has impoverished my faith. We tried something different then our usual in the Sanctuary Pews sort of Worship and it was Wonderful! It was the Sharing of a Seder with my church family. We did this to celebrate and remember the Passover that Jesus shared with his disciples before his death and in which He gave us that extra cup, the cup and bread that remembers his gift of his body being broken, his blood being shed that we might receive the richest of any gifts, unfettered access to the maker and master of the Universe. The One who made us and has been reaching out to us in love ever since we rejected Him, choosing to go our own way.
He could have just left us alone after we used our free choice to go astray, to do it our way and so experience all the pain and brokenness of war, natural disaster, evil awful inhuman acts upon innocents, devastating disease. Sometimes it seems like, indeed we have been left to our own devices, our Creator throwing up Divine hands, saying “Fine, have it your way, I’m done.”
But, Jesus, spent three years teaching, healing, living, celebrating, explaining, pissing off authorities, challenging us to make the better choice this time. To try it God’s way. To live according to a new, yet ancient, set of rules, those of the Kingdom which Jesus came to initiate and invite us into.
It is so amazing, and so beyond my feeble brain and heart I cannot catch my breath. And I am so humbled that all of this which is global and universal and eternal is also deeply personal. Indeed, the core of it all is what goes on between me and God in private. Everything which is public, my actions, my attitudes, my interactions must come from that connection. Indeed they reflect that connection, my relationship with the One who created me, knows me, loves me, has done everything so I might know Him.
Yet, I feet a bit impoverished by my religious practices. Christians pretty much do our worship, religious life corporately through various church programs. Individual families work out their own observance of whatever traditions they have and celebrate, but mostly we “go to Church”.
The Passover meal and observance (in my very vague and uninformed understanding) is centered in the home within the circle of family and friends. Generation after generation share the traditions and the prayers and the practices that are their story of the Creator of the Universe loving them, wanting connection with them since the beginning of time. It feels to me like in this observance the religion and the faith are sewn together because they are experienced and expressed within the center of their lives. The children grow up with the family celebrating their connection with God as naturally as they celebrate all family events and meals.
Christians tend to sit in special buildings, often children do something different than their parents and work to set apart, to make special and sacred our rituals. Especially this one Jesus gave us within the context of his most cherished family of friends. We make rules about who can serve this “Lord’s Supper”, who can receive it, how to celebrate it, appropriate attire and training for the servers, little cups designed and used specially for one way that it is passed.
I am making HUGE generalizations and painting with broad strokes that do not reveal the entire reality of the life I am picturing. It is just that I was struck by an observation and have been wondering about it since then.
People are “leaving the church” in droves. By death or by choice the pews are getting emptier. The children are getting more scarce. Young families, young adults all are not becoming involved in Christian churches as much as in the past.
As we celebrate this most amazing Gift of our Savior, as we remember the mysteriously miraculousness of wine and bread becoming blood and body so we might connect with God I wonder if we have made the practice so religious, so special, so holy, so sacred we have taken it to the opposite of what Jesus was doing for us. Have we somehow made the ritual more unapproachable, more difficult in which to participate and so our younger generations have grown up without seeing how Jesus fits into their individual everyday lives? By keeping the marking of this incredible event in our history out of our homes and individual families have we missed having it shared within the everyday fabric of our lives?
The religious stuff we do at church. At home with our families it is all about bunnies and chocolate. With whom do we grow up knowing and loving and forming the relationship so central to faith? My church congregation IS my family and our practices have become very rich and personal for me over the years. But my daughter does not see it that way. She doesn’t connect with Jesus. She is a millennial and millennials do not have very well defined religions or faiths and their connection with anything appears to be more open and about everything and everyone rather than anything or anyone more specific. Again I understand this is a horrible overgeneralization and I do not mean to offend or define millennials.
My heart breaks seeing this disconnect of my daughter and many other young people with Jesus. I love Jesus. Sometimes I hate Christianity. My faith in Jesus urges me to trust in Him when I get anxious and sad about my daughter. But faith is hard, especially the trusting part.
So I will go to church today. I will remember Jesus’ dying that horrible, hard, excruciatingly awful death because of His love for me and for my daughter and all of us rebellious stubborn humans.
And on Sunday I will know the truth of Jesus’ promises by celebrating His defeating death and His resurrection. And I will try to hear what my part is in all of this, how I am to live out my faith in this Kingdom Jesus started and challenges us all to spread.
And I will probably give my daughter a little basket with some jelly beans and a chocolate bunny. And I will delight in the traces of my little girl I will see in her enjoyment of my little gift.
And I will acknowledge I am giving her mixed messages.
That’s the truth of how I am imperfectly living out my faith.
Help me Jesus, do it better.
In Your Name Jesus, in Your Name.. Amen.