who we are

Having responsibilities is one thing. Belonging is quite different.

Elizabeth 2015-08-13It’s fall, which means for many of us activities and commitments ramp up. While this is especially true for kids, it’s also the case for other important and meaningful areas of life.  I’m always struck, as I listen to one ‘fall kick-off’ orientation meeting after another, how much each one promotes their own activity as the most important one, the one for which everything else needs to give.  And in most cases, the consequences are severe and immediate.

And then there is church.  Although some churches take that approach, we do not.  We offer many things—as our Seasons publication can attest—and we encourage, but at the end of the day there aren’t consequences for not being involved, for not coming on Sunday morning and for not participating in one of the many opportunities for all ages.  But perhaps I should qualify that.  While it is true that the impact isn’t immediate and severe—no one will cut you from church nor make you feel guilty—I do believe there is a long term impact.  And no, I’m not talking about what happens after we physically die.  Rather, I’m suggesting that being involved in a church community provides an essential grounding that enables one to live their whole life more fully—including gaining benefit from the various activities that you’re engaged in outside of church but also when things go wrong, terribly wrong.

Let me explain.  Last week, Vice President Joe Biden was interviewed by Stephen Colbert on The Late Show.  Colbert began by asking Biden to talk about the significant losses he has suffered in his life, and yet, as Colbert put it, ‘through suffering have made some beautiful things in life.’  In fact, both men have suffered tremendous loss and their deep faith has strengthened each of them in and through that suffering.  Their lives embody resurrection that follows death.  Regardless of your politics, I hope you take a moment to watch the two segments posted here and here.

Most of us have suffered deeply in our lives, and perhaps as you’re reading this, you are suffering deeply right now.  As beautiful and precious as life is, it can also be profoundly painful.  And in that moment of suffering, the question becomes crystal clear:  what do I have to draw on to help me live my life truly, richly, deeply?  What will be my grounding in and through all things?  We know that it takes many hours of practice, as in hundredsof thousands!—to become truly good at something.  In the midst of the many obligations and responsibilities of your life, what kind of time, effort and energy are you devoting to that which provides and nourishes the foundation upon which your life is built?

Having responsibilities is real and important.  And, I believe the purpose of church is far more than that.  During the late summer, I read this sermon by Brother James Koester of the Society of St. John the Evangelist.  In it, he captured for me the true purpose of church:

Having responsibilities is one thing. Belonging is quite different. Responsibilities are about obligations. Belonging is about love. Responsibilities are about commitments. Belonging is about identity. We all have obligations and commitments but we also have an identity shaped by love. . . . We all have commitments and obligations as citizens, but our identity as persons is shaped by God’s love for us and that can only be found in union with God.

2015-09-17 PictureWhile sometimes we may not always feel motivated to get to church, it is my hope that ultimately church is much more than obligation.  Instead, it is a place of discovery, where we are reminded not only of who we are, but also whose we are.  We awaken more and more to our true identity and are invited more fully into union with Love. As we live together in community as the Body of Christ, we are nourished and sustained.

 

And if church isn’t that for you but you yearn for it, I encourage you to come see me and be part of helping this community of faith truly nurture and sustain you to live this one life truly, richly and beautifully in and through both suffering and joy.

Hope to see you on Sunday,

Elizabeth signature

Elizabeth
09.17.15