Thursday, February 22, 2007

Roots

There are actually about five things I want to post about tonight--but I cannot get my mind organized around them all at this late hour, so I'll just write about Lent.

For the past 7 years my husband & I have attended churches, primarily, where the Old Ways have been cast aside for Modern Worship & new styles of following God. We were involved in one radical church where there was very little mention of any holiday but Easter Day & Christmas Day. Mother's Day, Father's Day? They went by unmentioned. I was always sad about that. St. Valentine's Day? Other Christian holidays were not recognized because the goal was always to hold Sunday services that welcomed anyone, no matter what their place or station in life. Therefore, we did not discuss the Lenten days or the Advent days any differently than any other Sunday. As a result, my husband & I switched to a "higher church" environment for a while, where Poinsettias & Easter Lilys were ordered & purchased by parishoners weeks in advance of each season, in order to decorate the sanctuary. Words like "sanctuary" and "narthex" slipped off the tongue as easily as "prayer." We weren't able to conenct to others there, as we needed, so we didn't stay long, but there was Church history there--and that mattered to us.

Roots.

I have a genealogical research hobby--I have an obsession with my roots! I find it fascinating to read about kin who took ships across turbulent waters to reach the New World--mine were on the ships Abigail & Fortune. I feel a connection to my heritage when I see images of a jail in NYC where rebels against the Crown were imprisoned, like my own American Patriot relative. I take some pride in identifying myself as a Daughter of the American Revolution & in knowing that my great grandfather was a physician in the Spanish-American War, fighting with Brigadier General John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing (one of America's most famous Army officers). It is a part of my identity. It has built my optimism and strengthened my roots.

In today's churches, so focused on being "friendly" to "seekers" there has been a Great Divorce from our heritage. For me, that leaves a gap in my experience. So, on the highest of holidays, I often sneaked away to that Higher Church to celebrate communion, Easter or Christmas (sometimes with friends who felt as I did about the lackluster celebration at our home church). I like the hymns from the 80's (1880's). I like standing & singing together in harmonies. I enjoy the beauty of a building that is dedicated exclusively to the purpose of serving God. I appreciate Children's Choir, and long to have my children dedicated to the Church body--something that was a short-lived practice at our old church.

So, why are we so often drawn, again, to these start-up churches, where Ash Wednesday isn't even on the calendar? My heart is in outreach and evangelism. I do want to be a part of movements that are reaching those who do not have church homes, and maybe never have had a church home. I want to see people come to know & understand who Jesus is & who he can be in their lives. These congregations are making bold efforts--and their activities look effective. They appear to be doing something anyway!

At the first church we explored in this area there was little to say against it--everything seemed neatly in place--except that it was so neatly in place, there didn't seem to be any room for us. Like when your bed is made too tightly--it looks great, but you cannot put your toes up straight when you lie on your back? I guess we were the part of the Church body that represents toes in that weird analogy. What I mean, though, is that no one acknowledged our newness, no one shook our hands in welcome, no one gave us a tour...we were invisible. The preaching was great! The building was practical. The children's ministry was OK...but nothing our son looked forward to each week.

The second church we attended is still trying to launch--and we like that children are incorporated into the worship service! But, there are some doctrinal issues we do not embrace--so it appeared to require too much effort on our parts to make that work or us, and maybe, because of the size of the congregation (one family, plus a few), too intimate of a circle for us right now, when we might not want to be known quite that well?

So, now we're at our third church since moving here in October; and I realized that today was Ash Wednesday, but I didn't recall any mention of the Lenten season on Sunday. So, where is our Home? I feel like a stranded Catholic--I mean that IbelieveinGodtheFathermakerofheaven&earth andinJesusChristhisonlybegottenson...I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, thecommunionofsaintstheforgivenessofsinstheresurrectionofthebodyandlifeeverlastingamen...

What is Catholic? How can my heart be Catholic, when I disagree so much with Marian Doctrine, priestly celibacy, confession to a priest, and a host of other things? (Speaking of HOST, I don't believe that the bread & wine transform into actual blood & flesh, either!). So, where does a Catholic Heart go to worship? Not the Lutheran church, where division exists in "synods." Not the Episcopal Church, where controversy at the level of Bishop has split the church dramatically into two diametrically opposed congregations. Is it Anglican? Am I Anglican? I like the apostolic concept...I think.

I HATE that the Church has divided the name of Christ! So, what am I to do about it?

For the next 40 days I will give up wheat to try to make that period in between a more healthy one for me--where I stop sinning against my body, which does not LIKE wheat. At each craving for bread I will be reminded that this little thing I give up cannot compare with the sacrifice of my Lord.

Today, I find Church in my heart--and on Ash Wednesday I am reminded that I came from dust--and it is to dust that I will return. This issue is one I will have to continue to struggle with--and pray about--and counsel with my husband in (Lots of prepositions ending clauses there--forgive me!) for many days to come.

Let's start wtih just 40.

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