Edited to add: The Code is totally fine, and will be starting his diet of extra-calorie portions this week. We just have a Labrador for whom eating isn’t a huge priority. I know. We’re baffled, too.
So this weekend, I went out to my friends Candace and Andy’s new house for lunch and quality time. And they live in this little suburban oasis that is more than vaguely reminiscent of Stepford, and I was getting creeped out until I saw a house that had an obviously amateur garden planted IN THE FRONT YARD, and then another guy who hadn’t mowed his lawn in two weeks who seemed to still be alive. So I decided it wasn’t totally scary–yet.
Plus, my favorite male-childs seem to love it, as do their parents, so I’m going to be a fan. Except the fact that the place is in the middle of nowhere. Like, two hours in the middle of nowhere. Like, I live in a THRIVING METROPOLIS compared to this. So I had two hours of drive time, both ways, (because there were lots of cops around and I didn’t feel like making a donation) to drive and think. And I had two quasi-related Big Thoughts about Big Things.
First, I thought about something My Cousin the Minister said last week. He made an excellent set of points on the FB about something, but the thing that struck me about his post was something totally unrelated to the larger point. He talked about his churches as “the communities [he] serves”. And he said it in an offhand kind of way, not a planned or rehearsed phrase at all. And that whacked me. He didn’t call them “churches”. He called them “communities”. Because that’s what they are, that’s WHERE they are. And he didn’t say “leads”. He said “serves”. Sure, he leads, because that’s part of the job description. But that’s not what he focuses on. His focus is on serving. And I won’t identify him because he’s private, and doesn’t have quite the…compulsion to share All the Things…that I do. And he is incredibly humble so I would never want to embarrass him, but I have stories. He serves. Everybody. All. The. Time. And I just can’t help but be incredibly thankful that there are people in the world like him who care about the rest of us like he does. Minister or no, indeed, religious or not, I wish we could all focus on just…SERVING…somebody else today. Because maybe that might make My Cousin the Minister’s job a little easier. (Or, on a more meta level, Everybody’s Cousin the Minister’s job.) I think I’ll try to look for ways to serve others more immediately, more completely, in my life.
Though I do find it very weird to think about My Cousin being The Minister when I remember one summer in which we basically lived in a tent in my grandparents’ back yard, living in our swimsuits, eating dinner outside at our little table and chairs, playing in the sprinkler, and getting so dirty that we had to be HOSED OFF at the back door in a sort-of pre-bath before it was safe for us to come into the house to take an official bath. (My one and only time that I have ever enjoyed being out in The Nature.) (There were ice cream bars and my Gamma’s fried chicken. Put those on a marathon course and I’M YOUR WOMAN.)
BTW, Cousin, I’m available to speak at your services in case your flock want to hear about the time you bit me on the nose. XOXO
Anyway-then I saw a billboard here in town for a local church, and I finally had time to figure out what bugs me about the billboard. I won’t identify my town or the church, but it reads “It’s about [name of church]…You wouldn’t understand.” And then the slogan for the church is “You Belong at [name of church]”.
So setting aside entirely the conflicting message about belonging somewhere you wouldn’t understand (because I can’t even begin to sift through that one), I’m going to choose to give the church the benefit of the doubt. I see two ways this could be interpreted–one, that there are Mysteries of Faith that you, indeed none of us, cannot understand. The nature of Grace, time, eternity, the afterlife, etc. Maybe this church is doing a series of sermons and lessons exploring these heady and ethereal concepts, and is inviting the public to explore these questions with fellow seekers. I hope this is so.
Because the other way I read it, throws back a few years to a popular tee shirt theme (before we had “memes”). “It’s a cheerleading thing…you wouldn’t understand.”, “It’s a baseball thing…you wouldn’t understand” etc. My favorite one was, “It’s a rugby thing…you wouldn’t understand.” Which was true. Because not even us ruggers understood it, we were too
concussed drunk both.
This was meant to imply an air of exclusivity, of “you wish you were as awesome”. We have something you don’t.
Which is pretty much contrary to EVERYTHING I believe to be true about Jesus. His friends were quite the diverse lot, His ministry focused on those forgotten by the rest of the world. He welcomed all. And I don’t think He ever focused at all on being well-liked or popular or “awesome”.
And in a hurting world, in a world that tears us down every single time, a world that tells us we aren’t good enough and someone is always going to be richer, smarter, prettier, better, more popular than we are, the church should stand alone in saying, “YOU ARE ENOUGH.” That you were so loved, so cherished, that Someone DIED for you, 2000 years ago. Before you even happened. That you are WELCOME HERE, that we want to be where you are. That we want to see what you see, and having seen that, serve you in light of that. That we are not at all perfect, and if you’d have us, we’d love to count you among us. Because you might have a way of helping us, while we help you.
And then I saw a Dairy Queen and got distracted. (The chips ahoy Blizzard is FANTASTIC.)
But look, if you are a member of this church, I’m not trying to harsh on you. Heaven knows I know NOTHING. We’re all on a journey. But I don’t know that your message is being received in the way I’m sure you meant it. Or, maybe your message was designed to get a sinner to think about things on a Saturday afternoon, and in which case, it worked.