Church can be and is awesome. I said it. In some places and situations, saying such feels tantamount to, though opposite of, standing up at the Council of Chalcedon and screaming, “Arius rocks!” If you didn’t get that last example, don’t worry; it was a bit nerdy of me, and suffice it to say that stating that church is cool is not always very popular. Nevertheless, it is true – church can be and is awesome.
Recently, I have seen Lillian Daniel quoted a great deal. The quote is from her book, “When Spiritual But Religious is Not Enough.” In it, she says something along the lines of: anybody can find God in witnessing a gorgeous sunset alone, but it takes real spiritual maturity to find God in someone sitting next to you who is annoying, annoying in habits and annoying in very real, very finalized ways.
I hate to admit it, especially as someone who has a cache of facebook cover photos with sunsets included in them (oops), but Lillian Daniel has a point.
And there are annoying differences present at church. I can’t deny that – but with God’s help, I can get past that. I sometimes think that I’ve been lucky in that regard, and I know that I’m not the only one. In fact, some of the most impression-making saints who I’ve known are the ones who sit quietly in the pews, applauding the more public deeds of others while their own major triumphs and brutal life-wrestlings go on, just off of stage-left, somewhere behind the big red curtain.
But, do you know what’s more impressive than the ability to put up with annoying differences (as great of a gift as that is, and as much as we all do need it) ? The gifts and talents and personalities that are actually out there.
And so, in moving past the negative a bit and now into the positive…
We had an office in the church that needed a new, small table. I was just going to go over to the Habitat ReStore and buy one. It wouldn’t have cost much. But someone wisely suggested that I ask a certain gentleman, a very quiet and humble fellow, if he would make one. I’ve talked with this gentleman quite a few times. He’s always very quiet, though he’ll share here and there.
Less than a week after I made the request, this gentleman comes into the church with this gorgeous end table. He found old pews that a church somewhere else was selling. Apparently, they had joined in the rip-up-your-pews-and-get-chairs movement, which definitely has its advantages. Well, they had sold him a number of pews. He took one pew and cut it in half. He attached a couple legs, and the side of the pew became the tabletop. The end result was a beautiful and ultra-cool work of art. I ended up posting the pew-table on my facebook. It’s probably the most popular thing I’ve ever posted onto any social media site. Everyone from seminary folk to atheist death metal guitar players came to like it. A great number of people appreciate well-done faithful work. What’s more, people keep popping into the church to see the pew-table, and more conversations happen that way. Of course, I’m not about to start acquiring more artistic furniture in order to make a metaphorical splash, but what I have learned, or re-learned, as I’m always re-learning, is that the people in church are awesome. When someone is able to use the gifts that God has given to her or him, the result is usually phenomenal, something that is clothed in the mundane but can have all the impact of a fish-and-loaves event. It’s a bit incarnational – you can see Jesus at work in it.
And – Who knew that this guy was so talented? How did he imagine that so quickly? Get it done so well? His imagination and abilities are pretty awesome. (I’m wondering if he thinks in multiple dimensions at once.)
That same day, after a worship service, a woman I know handed me a horse chestnut. It is the first time that someone has concluded my worship experience by handing me a piece of a tree. It was so her. It was so authentic and beautiful and unique. More people should know her. More people should receive horse chestnuts after worship, laugh their rear ends off, and talk with this woman. She’s just wonderful – it’s not very complicated.
There are so many great people to know in church, and not for political or business reasons, but for reasons of life – for joy and abundance and revival through spontaneity.
We can’t forget that. Without it, what would church be like?
And, whether or not those are good reasons to think so, that’s why I think church is awesome, and that’s why I’m not ashamed to say it.
Church frickin’ rocks.