A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Dream Church

I think I have confessed in the past that I sometimes find church boring.  If the music happens to be among my favorites or if the pastor preaches a sermon that strikes home, or if I happen to be in the right state of mind and my children or other circumstances don’t distract me then worship can be meaningful.  If none of these things happen then worship sometimes feels pointless.  Maybe that is just human nature.  Maybe we are not meant to get more than occasional glimpses of the divine.  Maybe we should make our sacrifice of praise by going to worship and never mind whether there is any other point to it or not.  
Maybe.  But, I have a hunch and a hope that church could be so much more.  Sometimes I try to imagine what a dream church would look like.  In these imaginings I see a church whose main focus of existence is service.  I see a church that lives by loving God and loving others, by doing justice and mercy.  I see a church that serves always and worships sometimes rather than a church that worships and occasionally has a special service project.  This, to me, fits better with the gospels where Jesus heals and welcomes the outcast and calls for justice. 
I see a church that wrestles with the difficulties of life together.  Discussing difficult issues and daily life with openness and honesty.  I see a church whose members take time to know each other and care about each other so that the church becomes a safe place to speak up about what concerns you, to speak up about your questions, and to wrestle with what faith tells us about the world around us and how best to do justice and mercy.  Then, if consensus is reached this church speaks up loudly, creatively and actively to make a difference in the world.  
This church would also worship through music, through hearing the Word, through moving and powerful liturgy, through the sacraments, and also (as a commenter to Lynn’s blog earlier this week reminded me) by going outside to lie down in the grass and look at the sky.  Creativity and flexibility would empower this church to worship in ways heart-filled and transcendent.  This worship would remind us to walk humbly with God as we do justice and mercy in the world.   This worship would feed us but not define us.  Our acts of love would be who we are.  
This church would be open to questioners and doubters, people who believe differently, behave differently.  Such folks would be welcomed not so that we could bring them into the fold and change them but because they are children of God with gifts and wisdom to offer and love to give and receive.  
This is my dream church.  I am still imagining and so the vision is a bit blurry around the edges.  To some this may seem radical, I fear it is not radical enough.  Perhaps you disagree.  Perhaps you think the church is fine the way it is.  But, if not, if you dream of something more, what do you see in your imaginings? I am going to let my Lutheran roots show a bit here and say: I believe the church is always reformed and always reforming.  I say it is time for a new reformation.  What say you?

"...what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
(Micah 6:8, NRSV)


Anonymous said...

If, as Thoreau suggested, "the bulk of people lead lives
of quiet desperation"----then church provides a place
of serenity, a place to reorganize the chaos that surrounds our lives. Perhaps music or sermon does not matter as much as the break away from the ordinary. A time to reflect, a time to relax, a time to reach beyond our selves to something greater than our selves---

Sheri Ellwood said...

Certainly worship provides a serene break for some. But for some of us if this is what church is about, we would be better off going for a hike, going fishing or sitting at home playing the piano. But, it is helpful for me at times to think of worship as a way I am forced to take a sabbath for at least an hour. Having small children puts a little wrench in that relaxation, however. Thanks so much for the comment!

Laurie said...

I believe a dream church should also have regular revelations of God's miracles. Real, current miracles that everyone can recognize. The church would then collectively give sincere, fervent thanks for another miracle in our lives. It is easier to have faith, if our human eyes can see the results.