Pastor Jack's Notes: "Overheard at Spring Glen Church"

Your friends might ask what it’s like at Spring Glen Church. And those of you who haven’t been able to make it to church in a while may wonder what’s been happening. Well, here are a few choice moments that give you a taste of what SGC is all about:

SCRIPTURE we’ve read:

+ For you shall go out in joy and be led back in peace!

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.

PRAYER we’ve said:

+ Though we may put on a face everywhere else, we come to church so that we can be our true selves in Your house, O God.

CHILDREN’S TIME we’ve enjoyed:

Pastor Clare: Has anyone travelled outside the US before?

Child: I have!

Pastor Clare: Where?

Child: Mexico and New Jersey.

SERMON QUOTES we’ve Amen-ed:

+For me,  God is the amalgamation of all of things . God is the forces of nature, the laws of physics, and the experience of love. God is everything that is was and will be. God is all of Creation and all that has yet to be Created. God is infused in every atom of this world and God transcends every level of this world.

+ When I say we are a  “Church Family,” it’s not a family destined by DNA, but a family found in love ; not a family made in birth, but a family formed through effort and time; not a family that stays static, but a family with a never-ending call for new cast members; not a family bound by geography or language or race, because our love is greater than even the oceans.

+ I find that  easy answers  to life’s big questions only really work in Holiday Specials and Predatory Cults.

+ Wouldn’t it be nice if angels just went around wearing  name tags ?

+ I’ve also seen churches that stand up for what they believe in at great consequence.  Churches that don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.  Churches that use their faith to heal not to hurt. I have seen churches  like Spring Glen Church , a church that feeds the hungry, welcomes the stranger, affirms the outsider, heals the leper, houses the homeless, embraces the outcast, comforts the mourning, stands on the side of the suffering day after day after day. And  though I am ashamed that Christ’s name has been misused  to cause so much suffering throughout history,  I am proud to have grown up in the United Church of Christ,  proud to now be the Senior Pastor of Spring Glen Church, proud to be part of a congregation that is on the side of the persecuted whatever the cost.

This is God . Disappointing our every expectation. Subverting our every image. Offering mercy and affirmation when we want vengeance. This is God.  Loving the people we cannot love.

+ As  author Anne Lammont  says, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

+ For me, it’s not so much the words but  the search for meaning , not so much the answers but the exploration. God isn’t in the literal word, but in the ability to connect to people across any boundary, even people who lived thousands of years ago on the other side of the planet speaking a language that no longer

It’s not the Word, it’s the meaning we bring to the Word.  And if we limit the meaning to a single interpretation, if we only read these stories literally, then when it says the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in bodily form  like  a dove, reading that literally does that means a dove literally slammed into Jesus’s face? No. It means something happened that was so beautiful it was beyond our linguistic abilities to describe it.

I won’t be reading the Bible literally,  but I will most certainly be taking it seriously.

+ I wish Church were easier. But I also know that it’s the struggle that gives it meaning. It’s the struggle that proves it’s important. Church shouldn’t be a place of easy answers. Church should be difficult and inconvenient. Church should stretch you outside your comfort zone, make your mind race, your heart pound, make you wrestle with yourself and with your God and with your neighbor.  Church should keep you up at night.  Because it is in that struggle, through the frustrating search, the long journey home, the process of trial and error that we learn to differentiate between a sign from God and a mundane coincidence. And if you’re going to err in your trial and error, it’s usually a good idea to err on the side of angels.

 

This article first appeared in the November 2016 Springboard .

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