We are made for community. I knew this from my earliest days. I remember trying to be bigger than I was to tag along with my older siblings. I never wanted to be left behind or told I was too small or young to join in the fun. Sometimes I still feel that familiar pang of pain at the injustice of not being included. My friend John says, “being invited and being welcomed are two different things. Whether invited or not, you are always welcome around here.” This is how I think the body of Christ should be, but sometimes it feels like some exclusive club that I don’t have the members only card needed to get past the door guard.
We celebrated the sacrament of Eucharist yesterday, which happens about once a month at our church. One talented artist told a story about running away in his youth and how his family welcomed him back to the table with love. This was an excellent segue to the story of the prodigal son and a great reminder that our heavenly father is just like the father in this story. That he has prepared a place for us at the table and he delights in our return to him. Although I feel the nearness of his presence in my breath and in nature, in my relationships, and in my work and ministry, I am feeling disconnected from his presence in the church. This breaks my heart because I know the church is the bride of Christ and the hope of the world. I am trying to figure out when it happened and how to repair what feels like a tiny hairline fracture that is quickly spreading and dividing me from the place that I call home. While on a walk with a dear friend, she asked good questions and let me rant about the church that we both love dearly. She said, “the church is just broken people like you and me, but they have liability issues.” They have to present well and pretend that everything is perfect from up there, so they don’t get sued. To me, that seems inauthentic and feels like a breach of trust. I want to believe that my church is special. It was in this church that I first tasted real Christian community, and that I fell hook line and sinker for the Acts 2 community that they were selling; where people take off their masks and bring their whole selves to the table. I feel confused by the mixed messages I am receiving. I realize that the pain that this stirs causes me to want to run far and fast in the other direction, but I know wherever I go, there I am. I want to be a part of the solution. I signed up to lead a journey group which helps provide care for those who have experienced trauma and abuse. Unfortunately, I was not chosen to lead which reinforced a lie, that my church doesn’t want to use my gifts. I showed up anyway. I love my church and I want to care for its people, but after one session, we were told that we needed to go through a 12 step recovery program if we wanted to lead, and since that time, our church stopped offering journey groups. In a church this size it is near impossible to meet all the needs of the people, so instead of pastoral care, they changed their name to pastoral response. As much as I want to be invited in and be used in my church, I know that my work in the world is to care deeply for those who are broken. So, instead of begging to be welcomed in and used within the walls of the church, I will follow Jesus out into the world and go where he leads me. I will enter the walls of my church with gratitude for the gift that I receive there, imperfect as it may seem through my eyes that were made for heaven. I will practice gratitude and worship God in the walls of my church as best as I am able. I will release the pain I feel and surrender my desire at the foot of the cross. I will trust in God’s promise “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making all things new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” – Revelation 21:5