Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fish or Cut Bait?

As I sit here, mentally preparing to write, I find I'm stuck between two different topics. One was an opinion piece on the Bruce-to-Caitlyn Jenner announcement, and the other was a reflection on my first "full" service at my "home church" (today) since the start of the sabbatical. While having a late breakfast with my  lovely wife this afternoon, I found both topics intertwining. The church experience stepped into the Jenner topic, providing almost further support of the opinion piece yet to be written. With both topics being fenced in by the timeliness of their occurrences, I think I will focus on this morning's experience, and refer to it in a later blog when I go back to the Jenner story.
As I wrote in "B.I.B.L.E.", now that I'm at the end of my sabbatical, "Where do I go from here?" I decided to make this Sunday the day I would not exit after the praise and worship portion, and stay until the end of the service. My wife went to the church she has been attending during this period, so if I really felt I couldn't stay, walking out in the middle wouldn't be something that would embarrass her (I, for one, am difficult to embarrass.)
The pastor of the church preached the sermon. This is nothing new. It is actually a rare thing for him to not be preaching.
Let me add right here, that this is not the first time I've sat through a sermon since the start of my sabbatical. It's just the first time in my "home" church. I've had the pleasure of going to a friend's church, playing with him in the band, and listening to his pastor preach. That experience held little-to-no anxiety for me. I was hoping for a similar experience at my "home" church.
(Note: I was thinking of going into a detailed description of the sermon, but I think that it does not fit the purpose of this particular post.)
I found myself, not necessarily bored, but more mentally disengaged. This is not a reflection on the pastor's preaching ability: he is a hermeneutically excellent preacher/teacher. It was me.
I felt very disconnected. Not just while listening to the sermon, but the whole morning. The long and short of it is, I find I don't believe in what the church preaches anymore. It's more than the "worship" of the bible. It's how the church looks at the rest of the world outside of its stained-glass walls. There is this air of perfection required for God to accept you. That is not what is spoken, but that is the attitude. There is a focus on the depravity of the world outside of the church, and that focus helps to solidify the "we have overcome" persona the church claims. Unfortunately, it is THIS attitude that keeps many outside of the church from wanting anything to do WITH the church.
As my wife and I chatted (over some awesome chocolate-meringue pie), I realized that I had changed a lot. She used to shut down during conversations, because she was afraid that what she would say would seriously conflict with my belief structure. Now she says that has changed. I've become more tolerant. I've become more accepting. I've become less . . . religious.
In a sense, I would like to think I've become MORE Christ like. Jesus would not hesitate to eat with sinners. He would even occasionally invite Himself over to a sinner's house for lunch. He was tolerant. He was accepting of those "outside". He never made it seem one had to clean up their act BEFORE He would accept them. He was not religious.
The pastor mentioned that the pronouns in the passage he referred to (in Genesis) were plural ("Us" and "Our"), showing that the godhead was relational. As I've written a few times previously, if you look at the overall story of the bible, God is a relational god. Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship. We have gone and made it into a religion. What is religion? Religion, at its root form, means "to strangle".
So, "Where do I go from here?" Do I give my "home" church one more shot? Do I, instead, continue to attend the way I did in the sabbatical (making a graceful exit at the "meet and greet")? Or do I make the decision to "cut bait"? Is it the whole idea of church, or the idea of this PARTICULAR church?
I told my wife that I had this fear, that if I left my "home" church, without having another place to go, I would find that I would stop believing all together. She doesn't think that would happen. My beliefs have transitioned over this period, not waned. Like REM, maybe I'm just "Losing My Religion".
There is the chance, that if I walk away from my "home" church, that I will never again find myself in a worship (music) team. And would I be okay with that?
You know what? I think I am.
© Emittravel 2015

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