Monday, May 12, 2014

Desperately Seeking Jesus at Church

I miss church.

My heart this week has ached for a place to go on Sunday mornings that feels like home, for a community with whom to worship Jesus and study Scripture and love the world.

Josh and I moved to the land of mega churches in August, and throughout the fall months, we tried church after church after church, kids in hand, looking for a place where we would all fall more in love with Jesus each week, where we could know folks and be known.

It seems a small request, but it's tricky because ideally we'd like to be honestly known. And that means we need to find a place that can handle all of us (all of me?) with my suspicion of practical application points and my questions about the theology of hell and my desire to read grace into every single passage of scripture I discuss.

I want to find a church that focuses more on Jesus than on the perceived error of our culture or on a "clever" list of should's and should not's conveniently packaged in acrostics.

I want to find a church that operates out of faith and hope and love rather than out of fear of the world around us.

I want to find a church that believes the risen Christ has defeated death and damnation and therefore does not need our small-minded defense.

I want to find a church that believes we are saved by grace AND transformed by grace--and this not of our own efforts, that none of us should boast.

I want to find a church that believes the gospel.

Wow. It sounds like sacrilege to say so, but in my heart of hearts, I believe the gospel is what we've missed from the pulpit each week. There is Scripture, certainly, and plenty of claims to "Biblical" teaching.

But no gospel.

No Jesus, and him crucified, for the redemption of the world in a beautiful, mysterious upending of all the power and judgement structures of the world, leaving nothing more to be done because it. is. finished.

In fact, if you believed the sermons we heard, you'd think the gospel is about prioritizing church activities in our schedules, praying (which itself is presented as a chore) only for the impossible in our lives because we can handle the rest (ha!), and choosing not to be like the Muslims who were offended by the video originally purported to be responsible for the tragedy in Benghazi. If only THEY would learn to be more like Christians, who are never offended! (Tongue firmly in cheek.)

Kids, this is what our churches are teaching!

So we are still church home-less. And not sure what to do next.

I'm guessing we could venture further out of our neighborhood or into other denominations and find the kind of spiritual home we seek, the one that can't be bothered judging those outside (or inside) its walls because it's too consumed with the life-altering good news that sin was crucified with Jesus so that a new, righteous creation could rise with him.

But we'd really love to find a church nearby, so that the community we develop is within our neighborhood. Plus, Josh and I both hail from the evangelical "tradition," and it's hard to trade the music and structures and customs of this particular culture for one that is more liturgical or formal. It's not that one is better. It's just that one is familiar.

But perhaps we're being asked to venture out of our neighborhood. And the familiar.

I don't know.

But I do know I miss my little tribe of raw, radiant souls in Colorado who became the truest church I've ever known.

We belonged to an institutional church that loved Jesus and preached gospel, too, but this little tribe was a group that committed to show up week after week with as much honesty and courage and vulnerability as we could muster. We wrestled Scripture and challenged dogma. We wept in heartache and marveled with joy at success. We fought for truth and love in each other's lives and marriages and families, and we prayed as though prayer were the very manna of our souls. We recognized our day-to-day work is as sacred and spiritual as the time we spent reading the Bible and praying.We believed Jesus was truly the answer to every Sunday School question, and we tried to understand what it means that we are his body on this earth.

I love them, every one. If I told you about them individually, you wouldn't believe me. And then you'd chuckle at God's creativity--and at the beauty of people wholly alive.

I want to find a church of people who seek God this fully, who trust his grace this completely, who believe the gospel not just for themselves but for every single person they encounter.

Not perfect. Not "all together." Just honest.

And more dependent on the living God than shallow self-help strategies.

Somewhere in this city of churches, there must be folks who believe people are changed by Love incarnate, not acronyms or fear or judgement.

I've met some individually, and perhaps this is enough for now.

But I'd love to find a community we can call church.

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