I've spent most of my life as a church person. I had a couple of years there where God gave me a mulligan while tasting the fru-its of the dev-il ... but perspectively, The Church has always been a major part of my life. I grew up in the United Church, split away to go Independent, joined a Congregational network, was a die hard Pentecostal, had a brief respite as an African grass rootsy, and then planted an intentionally Non Denominational church with a mission to bring 'em all together.
I have deep appreciation for of them all. I have lingering burrs up my butt about all of them. They all both confuse AND INfuse me with passion. And I have a growing understanding that God loves them all for more unilaterally than I previously suspected.
"Protestants have this fear of Mary the Catholic Boogiewoman for some reason. Are we are afraid she is going to jump out and make us worship saints?"
Sometimes when God's people come together to worship, it's downright weird. I've been in meetings that included (not exaggerating here) 50 swords (including most of the Lord of the Rings replicas) that by the end of worship were being waved about.
I've been in prayer rooms with a group of quiet contemplative Baptists when "The Shofar Guy" walks in to triumphantly announce the "Walls of Jericho" falling down if you will. That's a scene that you wish you had a hidden prayer room camera for.
I've been in services where the truly crazy just walk right up to the speaker and declare them the living Spawn of Satan and I've been in meetings that when finished, people are laying prostrate on the ground under the weighty presence of a tangible God. I'm sure I haven't seen "it all" but I've seen lots of various good AND bad... and a whole lot of in between. And I suspect since everyone in these stories are still following Jesus and still trying to figure it out together... God's love and grace for all of it MUST BE bigger and wider than we suspect.
PEOPLE are the variable in each equation. It's not easy to figure out how we humans should behave around someone we respect and want to impress. Good looking girl... a business person you look up to... God. And because of that, sometimes it can get WEIRD and awkward. Sometimes it's like U2's heavenly dream of “I believe in the kingdom come where all the colors will bleed into one”. Those moments are awesome. Poignant. Meaningful. Memorable.
But not every moment is poignant. In fact most really aren't and it really doesn't matter that much. I was in a worship service recently where at one point there was a woman attempting to sing in a falsetto two octaves above where she should be singing, that sounded like a cooing dove struggling to breathe. At the same time there a young woman singing completely off key in my ear. At the same time someone else was aggressive knee-drummed completely off beat to a song I didn't like. I wanted to take a walk to get away just to let my brain breath. But what was happening was genuine people lifting what had, in their own way to God. Not pretty... but real. More real that most life scenarios because people were ACTUALLY expressing love.
I remember once when I was a young, zealous new convert eager to see revival in my city and family... I, enraged, tore out of the parking lot of a lovely Anglican service. My family was all gathered for a funeral and I couldn't believe that the Man of God delivering the message didn't act in the way that I would have. The nerve eh? It was so silly because what happened was honoring of man and God and meant MUCH to my family... but I couldn't get over the things that just don't matter much.
Many of our churchy things are all just make-believe. Names, titles, precious little traditions. They aren't NEARLY important as we think. But the amount of love and grace that God chooses to have for us as we figure these things out tells me that we need to really consider having much more for each other.
Last night a friend of mine sent me this clip that a personal friend of his shot from a church called Bethel in Redding California. At the end of a service... all of a sudden in the corner of the room a physical cloud appeared and began rain flakes of gold. Keep an eye on the top right corner
Absolutely amazing. Weird? Oh absolutely no doubt. This is NOT a common occurrence. Is it something that happened in the Bible? Oh absolutely... there was cloud of God that walked right along with his people. Do I get it? Lord no. Do I want to? Oh absolutely. What's the key to understanding? Love, grace, peace, patience, kindness and not getting brought down by how things look and seem even if it's not something we "get" ... yet.
The Church is weird but extraordinarily beautiful. I want more.