I adore my faith. I’m really in love with my church. I love the little buildings, the food pantry, the youth room, the chocolates outside our church secretary’s office and the creaky old floors that rattle when anyone over 14 pounds walks on them.
There’s a Grey’s Anatomy episode called, “Sanctuary” that’s one of the most powerful pieces of television ever written in my opinion. In voiceover, Meredith talks about the hospital being her church, her home and the place she loved most in all the world.
That’s how I feel about my church. I love it. It’s my sanctuary. My home. It’s messy, and stressful, and there are stupid people that bug the snot out of me some days. I know they feel the same way about me. That’s just fine. We’re stuck with each other for all eternity, so we better get used to it.
It’s also majestic and reverent, and gives me a sense of home and belonging that makes me feel connected and peaceful. We’re the youngest family in the congregation – most of our membership is well into their 60’s and 70’s. Our girls are the youngest confirmed members. Being such a hipster family, one wonders how and why we are so deeply rooted in this congregation. Sure, Ken’s the Youth Director, but really – he could do that at any church.
It’s the roots. It’s the deep familial roots. It’s knowing there are others to catch you when you fall – and also laugh with you, and sometimes at you. With silent permission, of course, because you’ll do the same thing with and for and to them. It’s dinners brought over when you’re sick. It’s fighting over the best looking bulletin, and who left the dadgum air conditioning on? It’s crying together when someone dies, or when someone breaks into your church to steal – when you would have given it to them. It’s feeling like you’re living a big scary life – but there’s a safety net below.
Today is Ash Wednesday. It’s the day when we, as Presbyterians, begin Lent. Like so many Christians around the world, we consider how we can repent, regroup, and rededicate our lives to God. It’s a reminder that we’re ashes to ashes and dust to dust – but as Pastor Tricia reminded us this morning – it’s comforting because those ashes and dust are part of the earth – which wholly and solely belongs to God. And so we too belong to God.
Someone asked me once how I got used to “reciting” the prayers we say and didn’t that feel “manufactured?” We say what we believe each week. We have ashes placed on our heads. We take communion. There was a time I thought that it was all a little groundhog day, too. It was odd to recite things, but a still small idea came to me in the middle of a service, just before we decided to join the church. It was the deep peace that came from knowing that other brothers and sisters of faith all around the world were believing and saying the same things and those things had been said for thousands of years and rather than that feeling like a ritual, it became a cord of belonging. A connectedness throughout time – connecting me to others by just one degree of separation.
I am honored to call myself a follower of Christ. I’m happy to call myself a Presbyterian, but I really choose to be a Presbymergent – an emergent Presbyterian that holds fast to the ancient, as well as embraces the conversations of today. The ashes of yesterday with the ashes of today – all belonging to God.