Word of the Week

God can be found in the strangest places. God can be found when we least expect, even in places where we don't feel welcomed.

Last week, I had the opportunity with a friend to attend an event an evangelical Bible church, a place I would normally not go for a concert my friend really wanted to attend. I don't like settings like this because I feel that if I were to open my mouth and tell the person beside me what I do, who knows what might be said or done to me! While there have been great strides in the acceptance of women clergy in certain settings, there probably still more Christians in the world who believe the manner in which I am carrying out my vocational calling is misguided and wrong. I simply hate to pretend. I don't like to  feel like I'm not allowed to speak, and so evangelical Bible land is not on any list of a place I'd like to go back to anytime soon.

However, as I was sitting in the concert, observing a blast from my past (I used to be great fan of the music that was being played), I began writing this blog in my head. For as much as I heard impassioned songs and speeches about who these individuals knew God and God's church to be, it is not the ONLY way. I felt empowered to claim differing ideas of what the church is and should be and why voices of progressive Christians like myself need to be heard as much as any evangelical ones do.

Though my church is not mega sized with bathrooms that look designed for stadium crowds with pamphlets on every corner about a particular ministry with rules for how everything in the church should be ordered, I believe we are faithful in what we do.  And this is what church means to me:

1. A place where all are welcomed-- where no creed, code or dress gets you in the door faster than any others. To be a woman, a minority, a gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgendered person doesn't mean that you come into church as a second class citizen. All are one in Christ Jesus who is Lord-- and no sin is greater than any other (and being gay is not a sin).

2. God is bigger, as the saying goes, than any one religion. While Jesus is our path, we have much to learn from the faith expressions of other seekers. Being respectful of the beliefs of others is a non-negotiable.

3. Life can never be summed up in proof texting scriptures like "Rejoice in the Lord always" "In all things God works together for the good" or "Pray without ceasing" (i.e. if you just pray enough then God will give you what you ask for). Life as I know in this church of mine is too messy for simple band-aid answers. There is only so much one can take. And, to make blanket statements like "God is testing you" or "You must clear out all of the sin in your life before God will bless you" are just gross. The world is simply a broken place and sometimes our lives merely reflect the brokeness. Yet, this doesn't necessarily mean that we have sinned in any way or less loved by God.

4. God is a mystery. To know God is not to memorize a series of scriptures on which to have an answer to everything in your life. To be a seeker of your Creator in this world means that there is much unknowing that is part of the journey. While having access to truths of scripture and being connected to the faith traditions of the past can be helpful guides, God's ongoing revelation with and to us, means that often we have to throw up our hands and say we don't understand. Part of belief in God is the process of being unbelieving.

5. People of faith are called on by God to be instruments of peace and justice in this world. Not because we are called to evangelize with force. Not because it makes us better people (though it might). But because we are a part of a human family and thus have a responsiblity to all to share what we have so that the blessings of life may be known to all.  Christ's life has taught us what selfish sharing is all about. Such should be our model-- being willing to lay down our life for others.

6. Worship is not to make us feel better or evoke some emotional response every time. Worship is to be reminded of who God is and why even in life's deepest pains, we have reason to hope. There is no one way to worship, and should not be dependant on any one form or process. Part of what it means to grow in knowledge of God is to be ok with different communities of worship's practice-- and not expect your way to be the way every time.

What is the church to you on your Wednesday edition? How might attending an event of a different faith tradition-- whether it be another denomination or different faith practice altogether-- actually strengthen your own convictions of faith?