I Can’t Hate the Church

In her book Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans asks the question what is it the man Jesus’ (diverse) followers all shared? She says,

“It wasn’t shared social status or ethnicity….No, if there is one thing that connected all these dissimilar people together it was a shared sense of need: a hunger, a thirst, a longing. It was the certainty that, when Jesus said he came for the sick, this meant Jesus came for me.” (p. 92)

I am thankful God brought this book into my hands right now. At the end of the hardest year of my life (so far!). After a year of stripping away; of feeling more alive than ever before & yet abandoned & confused deeper than I knew possible. A year of ultimatums & threats & old relationships turned sour & new ones (budding in dusty parts of the soul) riding the mysterious current of the River of Life.

In January I started going to a church–a communion of these Jesus followers–that I could (finally) listen to without being offended. I started hearing the Bible taught in a way that made my heart burn with passion for justice & equality & truth. Truth that linked my heart to God’s more closely. I started leaving church full-ish instead of empty. I’m thankful for the 7 months I had at Mosaic Church, and that though sometimes I felt too preached to, and (more annoyingly) too advertised to, the hugs & prayers & celebration & meals & gifts & sacraments kept me there.

Church of God in Christ. Church of Jesus Christ. Crosslife. Cornerstone. Community. Grace Bible. Why do all those names still make me throw up a little? Jesus Christ is my dearest friend; how can I have such a strong reaction against his name?

His name has been taken in vain so often, even by ones truly trying to honor who he is (myself included!). A cardboard cut out representing someone else’s Jesus has been set up with its shadow cast over the very ones he loves best. The outcasts. The marginalized. The ones who smoke weed. The homeless. The ones whose sexuality isn’t quite what culture says it should be. The murderers. Rapists. Porn addicts. Teen mothers. People with no money. The lie has been sown by the ones who claim Jesus’ name that his burden is heavy. That they have to leave behind their families & cultures & identities in order to come.

Some days I hate the church. Psalm 8:1 says, “O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth.” I really get the feeling on certain days that “church” makes his name un-majestic. That the big screens & the insincere liturgies & the campaigns against abortion remove the mystery & wonder of a God with a humble earthly story, a God who spoke to Moses with a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12). A God who invites us to munch bits of bread together & remember the united existence his death has made possible.

But I can’t hate the church. I can’t because the church is my best friends. The church is my eternal family. The church is the ones around me who know they are sick. The ones who hold my hand during a panic attack. Who go with me to get new tattoos. It is friends who don’t hesitate to affirm me while acknowledging the darkness in all of us. Who put coconut milk shampoo with the golden lid (I never would have considered myself worthy of) in my Christmas stocking. Who put together a picnic for friends of a friend. Who fail & recognize their failure but refuse to believe that anything can jeopardize their place as Children of the King. Who teach me what it is like to receive a gift–no strings attached. God’s people do this. God’s people show up & open up old scars to one another, knowing that encouragement & hope will be ministered freely. God’s people have laughed with me & danced with me through this most harrowing of years (2015).

Even a Christian pastor (the scariest kind of Christian!)  has the joyful confidence to say:

“I have to believe that God can put anything–anyone–back together. I have to believe that the God Jesus invites us to trust is as good as he says he is.

Loving.

Forgiving.

Merciful.

Full of grace.” (Rob Bell in his book Sex God)

Mutual hunger. Shared thirst. Shattered hearts & disappointing relationships. It’s all giving birth to unimaginable wholeness. I’m watching it in my own life & in the lives of those I love. The moments we feel of unity: during communion, at the corner of campus where people share cigarettes, through the bridge of Hillsong’s latest haunting melody, when girls have talent shows without mocking laughter or competition….those are the lasting reality. Those are whispers of a season where isolation will be no more. A season of depth & health & glory. God’s church emerging from all the shadows she has cast. The eunuchs. The women. The martyrs. The children. All who know their need & drop fat tears on the feet of humble Jesus.

She is the Bride Jesus longs to show off in the Heavens, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

And she will answer, “Worthy. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.”

We will answer.

We will answer now–eyes on the Lamb–amidst world war, poverty, mental illness, divorce, and life’s messiest messes:

Worthy. Worthy is the Lamb we love. 12248635_1238736879476513_990288516_n

 

 

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