“Come, come, whoever you are
Wonderer, worshipped, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Our is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow
a thousand times.
Come, yet again. Come, come.”
If truth be told, I probably do far too much thinking about what it means to be church. I recognize that there are folks who could tell me exactly what church is though I might not agree with their definition. This naming might take the form of those who see this gathering of people as sharing a set of particular beliefs, affirming certain words and principles that don’t fit well in my mouth, much less my heart. There would also be others who would define church with all the things we are not…..not welcoming….not inclusive…..not open…..not accepting….not in touch with this 21st century world in which we find ourselves. Though I may understand how they could come down in this place, I don’t think this negative view is any more accurate than the definition which is so full of certainty.
Perhaps it is because I came to give myself over to ‘church’ when I was very young, in those adolescent years when your heart is so ready to fall in love. And I did. I fell in love with church. I spent a lot of time there. In youth group on Sunday evenings and at gatherings with other people my age who had this sense that being together, questioning together, trying to understand how the world worked and making meaning of it, was somehow tied to this thing called church. My parents didn’t push me. In fact, I think they sometimes worried about my desire to spend the time there that I did. I went to church on Sunday morning, participated in worship and then sometimes during the week would go back to the building and practice piano or organ there. A lot of people would have found this very weird.
But somehow, at some point of this impressionable time of my life, church became the place it seemed to me the ‘wonderers, the worshipers, and the lovers of leaving’ all found a home. It seemed to me a good idea to stick with a group of people who would keep feathering a nest for all the diversity of humanity who might show up at any time. The really cool people. The not-so-attractive. Those who didn’t have much and those who had more than was necessary. Those who got good grades, those just scraping by and those who had given up a long time ago. This is who showed up and more and we all just tried to make sense of our lives and some deep held belief that we were connected to something, Something, that was bigger than who any of us was individually or collectively.
I have called this ‘something’ God or the Holy or Spirit. Others may name it differently. It has always seemed to me that those of us who show up to be church have a sense that we are a part of some bigger story. Some of us find that narrative in the scriptures. As those who make their home in the Christian household, we look to the epic tellings of our Hebrew ancestors and then try also to figure out how Jesus and his rag-tag group of followers fit into who we say we are, who we try to be. We try to live into a tribe who ‘is not a caravan of despair’. It’s big work, difficult work, confusing work, inspiring work and the main work I have come to believe has the power to transform the world.
Personally, I have broken my vow to this community over and over again. I know that this will no doubt be my pattern for the rest of my days. But through it all, I find it a great joy to get up every morning knowing, deeply knowing that this place and people I call church is also the home that continues to say “Come, yet again. Come. Come.”
And in that invitation I hear the voice of God.