on Psalm 10
New Revised Standard Version
While finishing Rachel Held Evan’s new “Searching for Sunday” as she begins thanking different friends and people for their contributions to the work of the book, I immediately noticed that my skin was covered in goosebumps. Throughout the book, chapters begin with quotes from other authors, theologians or musicians. In passing each quote, I realized that they were authors who also had joined me on a journey from loving church, to leaving church, to finding church again. Madeleine L’Engle, Nora Gallagher, Frederick Buechner, Walter Brueggeman, Brian McLaren, Anne Lammott, Barbara Brown Taylor, Becca Stevens, and on and on and on. The way the book itself resonated with something in me apparently forgotten was registering more and more understandable as each name graced the pages. A sense of camaraderie was surfacing, like we had all been having these conversations together.
And then in hitting the acknowledgments, a section I’ve come to read in every book as to me it presents a kind of undercover autobiographical picture of the author, she thanked many of these people, referencing food, wine and tables as a common location for their work together on life and ultimately on the living behind this book.
My mind drifted to the last few months in my own life. High expectations met with a deep drop of disappointment and numbing hopelessness that permeated much of my community. It drifted to my travels across the ocean and to the coast, sitting and reading and eating and drinking with friends and family. These are the same friends and family who journeyed with me during a deep love of church. They were with me when I realized for the first of many times that church will be as out of touch and off track as any other group of normal people. They were with me when I couldn’t bare to look church in the face because it was unrecognizable as the body of healing and hope and restoration and justice that I had learned it was supposed to be. They were with me sitting on a living room floor every Sunday night managing crying babies and prayerful questions about what it means to be tiny christs in the world. They were with me when I snuck into the back row of big church for an Easter service because something in my blood wouldn’t let me stay home. And they were with me I said what I swore I would never say again as i committed to a group of people learning together what it means to live as Christ in a world clamoring for us to figure it out.
And were I to be writing a book about loving, leaving, and finding church, I would write in the acknowledgements about all of these people and their tables. Dinner on Greencastle and Harper Cove. Breakfast and mimosas on Mimosa Drive. Happy hour at Picasso’s and Flat Iron and the Fat Cactus. Cheese and whiskey on Smith Dr. and sundowners at Camps Bay. Coke zeros and weird cookies under the rustling thatch looking out toward the Nicaraguan volcanos. These meals and drinks have been peppered with the words of Buechner, L’Engle, Brueggeman, Stevenson, Alexander, Meyers, McLaren. They have been soundtracked with the music of Sara Groves and Josh Garrells and Bono and the Indigo Girls. They have been hemmed in by the wise words of good friends.
And if any of us look carefully enough, there are small stones somewhere in each these places, whether restaurants or rancheros or vineyards, that mark something important. They mark tiny moments of thin space where God was real for just a moment, whether in hopelessness or surprising hope. They mark signs of the kingdom with other people who have been both lost and found. Rachel Held Evans and her people. Me and my people. There are lots of us out there looking for each other in hopes that we can find ourselves. The book was a reminder to keep searching for Sunday.
Pine Tree Dr.
To find Searching for Sunday, click here.
It wasn’t at all that there were a few other languages loud enough to notice, but English was still the loudest. There was no prevailing language; the rhythm of the words held the group of roughly thirty together as much, I suppose, as the gathering just after seven for Eucharist held us together. I’m glad the words are now, after all these years, buried somewhere deep inside me. Otherwise the thin layer of contact-floating tears would have made it impossible to read them. Still it was nearly impossible for me to speak them.
Your kingdom come…
With my awareness of Pentecost still keyed up, whatever it means and whatever I’ve made it mean, I heard the phrase in multiple languages said together so that it spun into a kind of rumbling made familiar by rhythm. I got the phrase uttered, and then had to stop again only to listen. The language to my right was different from that to my left. Neither was the same as mine.
… Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
… Makwenziwe ukuthanda kwakho nasemhlabeni, njengokuba kusenziwa emazulwini
… laat u wil geskied, soos in die hemel net so ook op die aarde
To lean into the rhythm, celebrate the diversity, and dare for the gritty risk of kingdom on earth outside the doors of the cathedral after final thanks and hallelujahs…we might, then, sense the same kind of rumbling being spun in the streets.
Several weeks ago it was at a greenhouse under the South African sun. It was with two friends, one from South Africa and one from England, both in Cape Town now chasing the kingdom hard and fast. One works to transform the way housing is addressed for those living in informal settlements by way of valuing inherent wisdom, skill and reality. The other is working to address issues of gang violence, trauma, and youth development not only in Cape Town but in the hearts and plans of those around the world.
A few weeks later, it was in Nashville, Tennessee. We were talking about whether hot chicken was hot enough or too hot as we prepared for a wedding a few hours later. Friends without the pretense of worry of doing it right or doing it fancy, it was a celebration of choosing to do it and do it together. Friends willing to push through the new uncertainty of what it means to be a community surrounding those who are choosing to do life together. Friends who will argue over the heat of Nashville’s hot chicken in the morning, pretend not to cry at a lifelong commitment in the afternoon, and dance like no one knows what dancing is supposed to look like in the evening.
And this week, like last week, and like the other weeks in between was at the altar rail at a little church on the north side of town. Hands out, breath held, eyes up, it all swelled together. I’ve heard my priest and favorite friend say before that when we kneel at the rail, we share in communion with those with us in that moment, those who are gather at Christ’s table around the globe, and those who have both joined the table in centuries past as well as those who will come after us with the same assurances and the same uncertainties as we knelt at the rail today.
This morning, hands out, I joined them. I joined my brothers and sisters in Cape Town. I joined my sisters and brothers over hot chicken in Nashville. I joined my own local church community, and all those who were at their own churches both in my own city and in cities around the globe and through the ages.
I’ll work toward justice tomorrow and push against institutional power and greed.
I’ll seek beauty and laughter and silliness tomorrow with adults who hate it and children who love it.
I’ll do paperwork and billing tomorrow and wonder what I’m doing and why I care.
I’ll push a few steps forward into and few steps back from the kingdom of God.
And I’ll only be able to do anything at all tomorrow by the mystery of
the power that somehow shakes the rail every time I kneel,
whether at a nursery in Cape Town
or over hot chicken in Nashville
or the altar at my little church.
His kingdom comes.
Pine Tree Dr.
They are a large part of what made me so grateful for the evening.
It was also fun that the three-year old kept asking about the “toast” in the oven. It’s not fun when the car breaks down, when questions linger in the air about bills and responsibilities and logistics. It’s not fun when things feel like they are spinning faster and faster and if one thing goes they’ll all go most likely. And normally a day like today closing out with burning burger buns would not be fun at all. But burnt burger buns and a three-year old asking about toast while the “adults” spill out their own worries and concerns and forget to notice the toast in the oven that will soon sandwich the burger beams helpful.
The laughs oozing from simultaneous exhaustion and relief over the dinner table are also part of what made me grateful for the evening. They were present not because it’s all figured out, not because things are resolved, not because the car is fixed, the bills are paid and the plates are stacked rather than spinning. But fun instead because after a three-year old prays, his tiny, waited-for and prayed-for face now here in the room with us hovering over those burnt burger buns he tried to tell us about, there are people sitting around the table eating, laughing, worrying and living forward. And doing it together in one way or another. It makes the day worth a toast again.
The burgers were delicious, by the way.
But it was the burnt buns that will make me remember to give thanks and pause for good moments and great friends.